Citizenship and Belonging: Childhood Food Memories (2nd idea)

(…) smells more easily connect with “episodic” than “semantic” memories (i.e. life-history memories as opposed to “recognition of a phenomenon” memories), and also because of the tendency for smell memories to be emotionally charged (Vroon, 1997: 95, 104). This emotional charge is touched on by Sperber in trying to place a smell that one is re-experiencing “one may revive ‘original desire one had to identify it” (1975: 122). Or to quote a food author discussing the phenomenon of taste memory: “the hunger is in the memory, not in the biscuit, berries and cream…” (Lust 1998: 175) P.310

Sutton, D (2005) ‘Synesthesia, Memory, and the Taste of Home’, in Korsmeyer, A, (ed.) The Taste Culture Reader, Experiencing Food and Drink. Great Britain: Berg

Could people’s childhood food memories, their ‘life-history memories’, be part of the answer?

Although my first idea had withered on the vine, my interest hadn’t waivered. It remained the same, people’s identities and where they site themselves.This is in part due to my ‘split identity’, born in London to an American born mother with Russian/Hungarian grandparents, and a father with Hungarian parents and grandparents. The ‘split identity’ becomes apparent when viewed through the prism of my questions. The first question being my original idea, whilst the second one is a more nuanced way of teasing out the information required for my research without my participants immediately framing it as being about identity and belonging.

  1. What food/dish do you identify with you country of origin?

Roasts, pies, sausage and mash and crumbles.

  1. What is your strong childhood food memory?

My main memory is of Hungarian food, especially the cakes. Apple Strudel with flaky buttery pastry, filled with apples, sultanas and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Steam and the smell of baking in the air.

It’s only by asking the second question that my Hungarian ancestry reveals itself.

I decided to test my theory by posting the second question on Facebook and asking those that agreed to respond with a photo of the memory and some text. My ‘sample’ is somewhat problematic as they’re friends, acquaintances, people known to me. There was no reason beyond just knowing them for choosing to sample my contacts on social media, nor could I link it cogently to any research I had done. There was no rationale to my choice and so, as with my other ideas, childhood food memories fizzled out. However, the answers that I received were fascinating and as people took the time to find or take a photo, added some text and sent it, I thought I’d post the results.

I wasn’t sure how to categorise the responses. By country? By region? That felt a bit prescriptive. So, rather than group people’s responses geographically, I’ve arranged them according to the food type; traditional food, junk food, sweets/desserts, breakfast food etc, and the memory itself. In some cases this results in people from the same country or region being grouped together. Interesting.

This is kinds of korean noodles called 'Kalgooksoo'. I used to enjoy this noodle and still love that. Many ingredients of this noodle are expected to include the vegetables (carrot, green onion), seafood(clam) and rolled-omelet. South Korean

This is kinds of korean noodles called ‘Kalgooksoo’. I used to enjoy this noodle and still love that. Many ingredients of this noodle are expected to include the vegetables (carrot, green onion), seafood(clam) and rolled-omelet. South Korea

Ciorba is more consistent actually with vegetables, meat or both. It is very popular in Romania, and because it is cheap to make large quantities, my grandmother used to do a big pot once a week, and we were 'forced' to eat it every day. Romania

Ciorba is more consistent actually with vegetables, meat or both. It is very popular in Romania, and because it is cheap to make large quantities, my grandmother used to do a big pot once a week, and we were ‘forced’ to eat it every day. Romania

This is one of the most popular Korean street food. We call "ttokboki" Rice cakes in hot sauce. So spicy and I recommend this to my friends. South Korea

This is one of the most popular Korean street food. We call “ttokboki”
Rice cakes in hot sauce. So spicy and I recommend this to my friends. South Korea

Frijoles (beans) are really nice here in Colombia and for sure my favorite one. Colombia

Frijoles (beans) are really nice here in Colombia and for sure my favorite one. Colombia

The name of this pie is GUBADIA. It's Tatar national delicacy  Very-very-very delicious. I loved this pie as a child and still love it. Russia

The name of this pie is GUBADIA. It’s Tatar national delicacy
Very-very-very delicious. I loved this pie as a child and still love it. Russia

My childhood memory would be 'Chilean empanadas' every Sunday for lunch! I was the one who made the queue to buy them every week. Chile

My childhood memory would be ‘Chilean empanadas’ every Sunday for lunch! I was the one who made the queue to buy them every week. Chile

Soda and pizza croissant... not very healthy, I know, but who cared about being healthy back in the 80s. Brazil

Soda and pizza croissant… not very healthy, I know, but who cared about being healthy back in the 80s. Brazil

My childhood food memories range from crisps to chocolate milk, through pulled pork sandwiches and brigadeiro at birthday parties. Brazil (Baconzitos was mentioned, but is not in the text)

My childhood food memories range from crisps to chocolate milk, through pulled pork sandwiches and brigadeiro at birthday parties. Brazil
(Baconzitos was mentioned, but is not in the text)

When I was a child, my parents had not money to give to me and my brothers a big party of birthday, to my mother did everything to us. The principal was "bomba de chocolate", the translation is "chocolate bomb", is a kind of sweet bread with chocolate inside and outside, is possible do with a cream or chocolate inside.  Brazil

When I was a child, my parents had not money to give to me and my brothers a big party of birthday, to my mother did everything to us. The principal was “bomba de chocolate”, the translation is “chocolate bomb”, is a kind of sweet bread with chocolate inside and outside, is possible do with a cream or chocolate inside.
Brazil

Chocolate umbrellas. They taste awful, but we loved them. Brazil

Chocolate umbrellas. They taste awful, but we loved them. Brazil

Milk. I always loved it - the lactose free stuff is just a shopping mistake! - when I was a kid I used to have it as substitute dinner when I was too tired. Italy

Milk. I always loved it – the lactose free stuff is just a shopping mistake! – when I was a kid I used to have it as substitute dinner when I was too tired. Italy

Kellogg's coco pops! I loved the combination of chocolate with milk, mmm. Greece

Kellogg’s coco pops! I loved the combination of chocolate with milk, mmm. Greece

About my strongest childhood food memory, I can say that it’s a cereal called Rice Krispies, because when my mom was alive she get used to give me that cereal at my breakfast with a chocolate milk. There is something else that reminds me my childhood, it’s a chocolate butter called COVO, but unfortunately I couldn’t found an image of that product itself, I just found the promotional image which was a bear. I think this is because nobody produces that butter nowadays. it´s reminds me my childhood because I liked to eat that butter so much that I used to spread it on almost everything I could to eat. And reminds me my mom because she always bought that butter for me. Colombia (No photo supplied)

I spent the first 5 years of my life living in a flat above my parents’ business – a travel agency. Opposite was an ultra 60’s hairdressers owned by a showman called Leonard Poutney. The attached film was a little Pathe film made there. My food memory was being taken over to Poutney’s in the afternoon to have a rare beef sandwich with mustard and, I think, a glass of milk. Lucy who ran the bar area of the hairdresser would look after me for half an hour or so. Lucy’s main claim to fame was that she was Monagesque (or whatever you call someone from Monaco). This in 1960’s Hounslow made her slightly exotic. England (No photo supplied)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7egzlZYoAvQ

When I was young and still at school, we got up early as a family and often had a protein based breakfast – porridge to start and then eggs, sausages, tomatoes etc. Boiled eggs remain a favorite. I still love roast chicken and roasted potatoes but I rarely eat dessert these days. As a child, we always had dessert – twice a day, at ballet school and at home, home made by mum. Everything was home-made of course. England

When I was young and still at school, we got up early as a family and often had a protein based breakfast – porridge to start and then eggs, sausages, tomatoes etc. Boiled eggs remain a favorite. I still love roast chicken and roasted potatoes but I rarely eat dessert these days. As a child, we always had dessert – twice a day, at ballet school and at home, home made by mum. Everything was home-made of course.
England

We call it Tamal. It is a typical Colombian breakfast dish. It consists of a corn-based dough steamed in a platain leaf wrapper.it is usually filled with chicken or meat , peas, diced carrots ,a boiled egg, and rice. It is served with a piece of bread or arepa, and a hot drink like chocolate or coffee. I prefer to have it with chocolate and a piece of bread, all these together make my perfect breakfast! Colombia

We call it Tamal. It is a typical Colombian breakfast dish. It consists of a corn-based dough steamed in a plantain leaf wrapper.it is usually filled with chicken or meat , peas, diced carrots ,a boiled egg, and rice. It is served with a piece of bread or arepa, and a hot drink like chocolate or coffee. I prefer to have it with chocolate and a piece of bread, all these together make my perfect breakfast! Colombia

Gosh! I don't eat the stuff anymore... But smoothies, Brazilian style, which means milk with banana, wheat germ, honey. Yam!!or milk and strawberries, sometimes with a pinch of condensed milk. I just managed a photo, it's kind of the banana smoothie on the plate. The banana is mashed, oats, honey and yoghurt are added, and voila! Brazil

Gosh! I don’t eat the stuff anymore… But smoothies, Brazilian style, which means milk with banana, wheat germ, honey. Yam!! Or milk and strawberries, sometimes with a pinch of condensed milk. I just managed a photo, it’s kind of the banana smoothie on the plate. The banana is mashed, oats, honey and yoghurt are added, and voila! Brazil

About my childhood memory I remember with great joy the dessert That is my grandma used to make to my family, rice pudding. I'm not sure if this is a typical dessert of my country, but she made it delicious and she always prepared it for Easter and Christmas season. Her secret was add a little cinnamon powder and condensed milk. My grandmother is gone, but left us her delicious recipe. Colombia

About my childhood memory I remember with great joy the dessert That is my grandma used to make to my family, rice pudding. I’m not sure if this is a typical dessert of my country, but she made it delicious and she always prepared it for Easter and Christmas season. Her secret was add a little cinnamon powder and condensed milk. My grandmother is gone, but left us her delicious recipe. Colombia

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