Food As Memory

May 5, 2023

Nasly Roa Noriega (she/her/hers), Low Entropy Volunteer Writer

Life is full of aromas and flavors that preserve our days like a recorder. Sometimes, if you want to go back to your childhood, you just have to click and everything starts again.

Eating is, for some, the magnet that attaches you to your memories. You can be in the farthest place in the world and just by perceiving that pleasant aroma that mixes with your taste buds, you can encapsulate yourself in the most beautiful memory you ever had.

Remembering is living, it is painting with your fingers indescribable silhouettes in your memory, it is embracing an ephemeral moment in your life, it is crying while longing for a past, it is laughing while longing for that past, it is all of this gathered on a plate, because food is one of the pleasures of life that can be enjoyed in the solitude of a room, or in a cold and snowy landscape, or perhaps in a fiery and unimaginable sunset on a sleeping beach. Each flavor mixed in a meal is a magical note from an instrument.

Each bite of food, each taste can make you close your eyes and rise with a smile that shortens distances and makes you fly so fast to moments in life whose pages you thought you had closed.

I don’t know how memories lead to a special person, but for me, all flavors lead me to a great woman, my grandmother.

I remember her majestic chicken soup, and it wasn’t just any soup, it was her soup, her old age outlined in the kitchen, dancing to whatever music played on the street with her wide smile, breaking into thousands of uneven pieces every vegetable, every protein.

Seeing a plate of chicken soup is seeing her every day, dragging her slender feet along the floor,  holding in her hands that big spoon with which she pleased us.

Food is the best souvenir, an expression to highlight that our lives on Earth are leaving a trace, that they are marking scars on our souls, that they are leaving a treasure in each generation that grows, locked in each cycle of life in trunks of memories.

We all perceive differently. Some may not feel anything when trying some foods, some may prefer to leave their experiences anonymous, but just knowing that food not only feeds the body, it also feeds the soul, gives us spiritual health, it changes moods, makes us fall in love and also marks the passage of time in our lives.

Very few see food as a connection with memory, and that is respectable, but delighting my palate with a special plate of food fills my days with joy. Life shakes me, and sometimes it transports me to my childhood and reminds me for a moment how beautiful it is to live, even when the taste experience only lasts as long as it takes to savor some delicacy, because even the cloudiest days can be accompanied by a special delight.

Sometimes I wonder if my dishes will leave an unforgettable mark over the years. I have never considered myself a chef, but when I cook, I like to make an explosion of flavors, a strange mix of who I am and what I can achieve without fear of disappointment. I am fascinated by combining the morning smell of vegetables with the fiery flavor of protein, because I want each palate to discover what I want to express without words and because I long to remain in the memory of my two adolescent children when they decide to lead their own lives, always carrying in their souls the food of their mother, and because I think that all food is special and gives special touches to our lives.

It’s not just what we do, it’s how we do it. It’s not just what we add, it’s just the right portion at the right time. Life is full of memories, of what we did or did not do, of what we like or dislike, of what we ate or did not eat, memories of when we were children and when we stopped being children.

Walking and leaving a deep footprint in the sand is demonstrating our existence in life. Eating and feeling what each flavor makes us feel is leaving us marked for life by unforgettable moments, for me at least. I will always remember, in addition to the soups of my grandmother, the smell of roasted coffee from a factory near my house, whose aroma filtered through my window every morning and made me wake up with an innocent smile. Since that day, all my sunrises are accompanied by a cup of coffee in honor of the memories that warm aroma generated in my life.

Nasly is an economist living in Colombia, in a very nice coastal city called Santa Marta. She has been writing since she was a child, and has always thought that writing is the fastest way to speak without fear of expressing what we feel. Being a volunteer is a very rewarding job in Nasly’s life, as she believes there is nothing more important than helping without expecting anything in return.


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