From time to time, we experience the way that smells can evoke memories, even emotions. Perhaps it’s the familiarity of someone’s cologne, laundry detergent or hair product – you catch a whiff as someone passes by, reminding you of another time and place. Or the scent of a long-gone lover clinging to your pillow ... the memories fresh in your mind as you inhale.
The aroma of foods holds this power as well – the power to send our thoughts spiraling to the first time we were introduced to a particular food.
I recently made a new dish with a visiting friend
one of those late night dinners, accompanied by a little alcohol. The kind you wait for all evening, and then enjoy whole-heartedly (partly because you’re starving, a little because you’re drunk, but mainly because it’s just that damn good).
The frittata recipe we cooked up was one of the most fragrant dishes I’ve helped prepare in a long time, but more importantly, it was different – a new set of smells for my brain to process. A combination of bacon, garlic, onion and oregano filled the air. The longer we waited, the deeper the scent tickled my olfactory bulb - the structure in our brains that processes scent information. For you nerds who care how it works (yeah, my hand is raised), the olfactory cortex is embedded within the brain’s limbic system and amygdala. This is where emotions are born and emotional memories stored. Hence the reason smells, feelings and memories become intimately entangled.
We cooked, we ate, we enjoyed the evening. I didn’t give it another thought until a few days later I got a craving
for the food, and probably the friendship. Being a cheat of a cook sometimes, I ventured to make a scramble using the same ingredients from the frittata recipe. Sometimes I can’t convince my appetite that the process of a dish is worth the wait – as long as the taste is there, I’m good.
The bacon and onion awoke in my mind the memories of a great time. The oregano was the icing on the proverbial cake! It was like we were standing in the kitchen together again, half-drunk, laughing over anything and everything. It was just the reminder I needed to put a smile on my face that morning.
I propose that we try to create memories in this way, or more specifically, create a doorway to take us back to a particular moment. You can recall a nice date, or a special evening, and attempt to remember the details
but when you are surrounded by the aroma that set the stage, all your senses are overtaken by it. You remember without even trying.
Fragrant Egg Scramble
6 slices bacon (you could also use Canadian bacon or prosciutto, just add oil for the onion)
½ onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
½ cup grated cheese (Colby or white cheddar)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon salt
Cook the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan and cut into small pieces, set aside. Drain the grease, leaving about 1-2 tablespoons. Saute the onion and garlic until the onion becomes transparent. In a bowl, combine the eggs and remaining ingredients. Beat until well mixed. Pour over the onion mixture and add in the bacon. Scramble and enjoy (and don't forget to breathe deeply!).