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Sometimes Memories Are Found In The Strangest Places


Maybe it's the time of year. Or maybe it's the result of a year of semi-isolation. But yesterday I had a rather surreal experience. I had been hankering for some of my Mother's cranberry relish congealed salad. I don't remember the last time I had made it, but I knew that I would likely find the recipe somewhere among my old 3 x 5 card recipe cards. I have two boxes of them and the majority are ones that I typed out in the first couple of years I was married, copying recipes of my Mother's, Grandmother's, even Great Grandmother's, as well as a lot from Better Homes and Gardens magazines. Over the years my nice filing system became ignored and many of the cards are just in the boxes helter skelter, which meant that I had to go through all of them, not just those for salads or relishes. Recipe cards for my favorites had long since been removed and put in another collection for easier access. This disorganization yesterday ended up making for a nice afternoon of a few walks down memory lane. I found several recipes for main dishes that I had made often when I was first married and we had little money that used inexpensive meats like Spam and hot dogs. I found a recipe for Play Dough that I made when my two oldest children were small. Fondue became very popular during the 1970's. One Christmas I asked for and received a fondue pot which has been used sporadically over the years, more recently for the cheese variety enjoyed several times on Christmas Eve. Yesterday I rediscovered my recipe cards for Beef Fondue and all the yummy sauces to serve with it. It was easy to figure out which recipes had been used frequently at one time because they usually had brown stains on them. The ones that were still relatively pristine looking made me look more closely at them and ask myself why I had ever wanted to save that recipe at all. Those I tore up and threw away. Some of the recipes were of dishes that had been served by my sister on years when it had been her turn to prepare Christmas dinner, reminding me again of times past and family gatherings. There were a couple of recipes from old friends, too. Seeing their names on the cards brought them to life again for a few moments as I remembered when they had served the dish that I had liked so much that I had asked for the recipe. Such a variety of memories of times, places, events, and people all stored together on little 3 x 5 cards. Researchers have found that there is a strong connection between food and memory. So I really should not have been surprised that many of these old recipes became triggers for my memories. There is actually a scientific name for this. It is called "food nostalgia." Chelsea Reid, a food science researcher, explains it this way, "Humans have a fundamental need to belong, and because nostalgia often centers around personal events involving people they care about, the evocation of nostalgia is one way people can obtain a sense of belonging even when the people they are close to are not close by." This has been a year when we have had to be more separated from others that we care about. By extension, then, these recipe cards have served to evoke memories of sharing good food and good times. Little wonder, too, that I had been longing to taste my Mother's cranberry relish congealed salad again. Nor should I question why I saved out some of those other cards to my "active" file to try again soon. One of those was that Spam recipe, which would probably pair very nicely with all that cranberry relish salad that I now have to eat. I might suggest that if you are wondering what to serve for Christmas dinner this year you look for some of these old family/friend's recipes and plan your meal around them. I'll bet that if you do, your Christmas will likely be better than you thought it could be, especially if this year you already knew you would not be spending it as you have usually. Comfort food for uncomfortable times.

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