Monday, November 9, 2009

This Flavor Makes Me Happy

Ever since I was a little girl, my mom would talk about the bread pudding that her mom made, for which she didn't have the recipe. We would be at a restaurant, she would see bread pudding on the menu and consider getting it just in case it was somewhat close to what her mom made, just to savor that flavor once more. Any time she would order, it would never compare, and the disappointment wasn't worth the ordering any more so she just stopped. I had always wondered what the flavor was, or was it just that her mom made it and that was what made it great? There were of course other dishes that my mom loved because they reminded her of growing up, and her mom.

I discovered a flavor that reminds me of my mom (which is a really good thing). Thyme! She used it in a lot of savory dishes, I never really noticed- because I grew up with it I think. When I got married and started doing the majority of cooking I never really considered using thyme. I recently made one of her dishes that called for thyme and the taste really brought me back to the dinner table on Lindig Street. So I started using it more. It is amazing that flavor can really spark a feeling and memories. It is a great feeling for me to cook with and eat thyme, it brings me closer to my mom.

In fact, scientists say that smell (which is a huge part of taste) calls up powerful memories using our "emotional brain." So, you can feel happiness by just smelling something. I think most of us have heard/read that smells can remind us of events, people and a time in our lives. But what I haven't read much about, is if we know something tastes or smells so wonderful because of the memories associated, why not "pepper" our lives with it more? It just might make us a little bit happier, or more fulfilled.

I especially think this taste/memory experience happens around the holidays, with all the food we make that has been on the menu for years. Tradition is full of these flavors.

-What flavors remind you of something good or happy?

-Can you/do you work it into your regular menu?