Eating lunch recently at Brassica in the Short North made me vividly remember the tastes, sights and sounds of my long-ago, post-college trip to Israel with my mom and our church group. The exotic colors, aroma and flavors of my meal at Brassica took me back 25 years to meals shared in a kibbutz, snacks enjoyed in the streets of Jerusalem and just the overall culinary and emotional vibe of our amazing, unforgettable 1993 trip to the Holy Land.
Food, travel and memories are so interwoven in my mind and heart; they are three of my very favorite things in life.
I love the way a meal can prompt happy memories and related emotions to flood your mind. It’s the reason I immediately reach for Maltesers the second I set foot on British soil; with one mouthful of the favorite childhood sweet, I am transported back to childhood visits to England with my parents and brother. I am reminded of countless transatlantic flights, of arriving at London or Manchester airports after a long journey, and of being greeted by my loving grandparents and immediately plied with my favorite sweets. It’s a feeling I can recapture even without the benefit of international travel, simply by treating myself to some UK-version Maltesers from the international section at Meijer or the candy section at World Market (warning: as noted in my recent sweet treats blog post, DO NOT try the US version and assume there will be anything special about them. The US version of my beloved Maltesers are an entirely different and inferior product).
Perhaps not everyone feels this close connection between food, travel and memories that I do. I can fondly remember sitting in the hot sun on a Mexican beach with my family eating the best chips, salsa and guacamole I had ever tasted. I’m sure that summer 2018 through summer 2019 will forever be cemented in my mind as a time of eating incredible Thai food in the comfort of our own home courtesy of our amazing intercultural exchange student who became our Thai daughter. Food, global experiences and memories combine into a powerful emotional force that can carry one through even the darkest of times – or the coldest of Ohio winters.
I delight in asking my beloved husband and daughter, “Remember sitting outside at a table alongside the turquoise blue ocean in Turks and Caicos, and the servers bringing us a basket of warm, freshly baked pastries and fresh-cut island fruits before we even placed our breakfast order?” or “Remember being on the cruise to Mexico and eating delicious meals as we looked out over the ocean and felt the waves rock us gently?”
Actually, it’s clear there’s a fourth element that is intertwined for me along with food, travel and memories: Family. Certainly who I was with in each of the examples I’ve given is as important as where we were, what we were eating and how fondly I remember it all. In fact, perhaps family is the most important element of them all.
Maybe our long-ago Israel trip is so memorable not just because the Holy Land is an incredible destination for people of any spirituality, but also because it was the first time my Mommers and I ever took a trip alone together. Maybe the English sweets are so dear to my heart because my beloved Bombie and grandparents were the ones who so loved to give them to me, and these relatives are no longer with us. Perhaps I love the TCI and cruise breakfast memories so much because they evoke relaxed, stress-free moments I savored with my sweet daughter and loving husband.
Let’s face it, the one thing food, travel and family have in common is time – something we all wish we had more of. Taking time to linger over a meal, plan and enjoy a long-awaited vacation trip, or truly connect and bond with family is a cherished and precious thing. That is why memory-keeping is such a special pastime for me; making our family’s scrapbooks is a way to extend that time, re-live that travel with family and memorialize those special moments and relationships.
What are your favorite memories related to food, travel, memories or family – and are those things irrevocably linked for you as well? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below or over on Facebook.