It seems like forever ago that I was in culinary school (graduated almost 7 years ago now, damn time flies). It was here that I had a real taste awakening. Sure food is one thing, it is common place now to search for new tastes and experiences. I have been exploring different foods for most of my life. It helps to spend some time away from where you grew up. For me it was spending time not only outside of Michigan but also outside of the country. It does also help to grow up with great taste memories of foods in your own home as well. In our house we grew up with pasties and home made pizza, in fact quite a bit of what we ate growing up was made at home. It was an odd day if we ate out. But I digress…
It was during culinary school that really tasting what I drink hit home. I had been working on learning beer again even before school. By learning I mean more than just drinking for the drunk. Sure, I had sampled some great beers but I realized I did not really understand what it was I was drinking yet. At least not until I went to a wine tasting with the schools wine club.
This tasting was on our anniversary of all things. My wife who doesn’t really care for wine was happy to go as it was a different night out and we had plans to go see a friend’s band after the tasting. The tasting was of beaujolais nouveau. Beaujolais that are bottled within a few short weeks after fermentation to avoid the build up of tannins.
I don’t remember the wines we sampled. Really there are only a couple things that stood out from the experience. The big one was when the instructor (a Master Sommelier, picture the stuffy wine world of the 70s through 2000s and you might have an idea of what this entailed) asked my wife what her thoughts were on the wines. My wife who rarely holds back flat out said she doesn’t really care for wine. His jaw dropped about an inch, he blinked and then said “Then why are you even here!?” My wife of course blames me. Later my wife in a half drunk state says to me “He yelled at me. It’s my anniversary and he yelled at me.”
Where were we going with this? Oh ya, so the second thing that came from this experience…
This is when I learned the meaning of taste memory. A flavor I picked up from one of the wines brought an immediate flash of earthy basement. If you don’t live in Michigan you may not know this smell. The basement of my parents house has a damp mustiness to it. Even with the use of dehumidifiers the smell is always there. The wine had transported me to my parents basement bringing with it the emotions of growing up in the house. Nothing had ever done that before on such a primal level.
Tasting at this level is a very analytical level of tasting. When drinking beers I rarely try to push the taste memories like this (most of the time). Although, there have been a few beers that I have brewed that I crafted them with the intent to trigger a strong emotional memory. This doesn’t always succeed but on the occasion that it happens at least for me I consider it a good day.
Has there been a food or beverage in your experience that draws you deep into your memories? When you sampled the item again were you able to draw up the same response?