Creating Food Memories by Aroma
Some of my most vivid memories of childhood come from the aroma of delicious foods simmering in the kitchen. Food memories are powerful!
I grew up on a remote and beautiful ranch in northern Montana where food doesn’t come from a drive-through, so
I have a lot of these memories. I always have had someone around me cooking and delicious smells surrounding me. Now that somebody cooking is me for my own family.
Try to think of your favorite memories and undoubtedly, you may conjure up a fantastic food aroma at the core of this memory.
You might even be able to recreate the smell of the food in your mind if you just think about it. Maybe you can see your favorite person cooking that food when you think of the smell.
The sense of smell is more closely linked to memory in the brain than any of the other senses, which is probably why food, above all, can trigger the brain to remember a great moment in time (1).
The other senses: vision, touch and sound do not trigger this part of the brain, and thereby do not likely create as strong of memories.
Taste is too intricately tied in with smell to sort out whether memory is triggered here.
Food Aroma and Joyful Memories
As a nutritionist, this works out pretty well for me, as I can use this creation of memories as a motivator for diet change. I can teach people how to make joy and new memories with food.
How? To create joy, quite simply, we need to make new and positive food memories by filling the kitchen with fantastic cooking aromas.
We need to drill this deep into the core of our memories; the limbic system or the “primitive brain.”
For me in particular, I have great memories of being in the kitchen with my mom, who always made sure we had food fresh from the garden.
On birthdays, the house would have the heady aroma of marinara sauce and Sundays, the rich smells of roast beef and roasted vegetables, just to name a couple examples of food memories.
This amount of time, skill, and effort that went into meals back when I grew up helped create the basis of who I am today.
It is fantastic to see movements of effort to go back to slow meals, elaborate meals. It is at the core of our nature as humans, and nothing else can quite bring about the joy and satisfaction of this.
This joy stems from our primitive brain, the hypothalamic region, which is partially responsible for our mood-associated memory.
Making New Food Memories
This blog is dedicated to the joy of spending a day of making crabapple jam with my mom and will illustrate a few of those precious food moments. Technology is advanced; unfortunately, I can’t send that aroma through the blog, but I can help you replicate it.
Together, we created new memories deep in the brain. We harnessed the powerful aroma of apples, reminiscent of the blossom of spring and roses.
As much as I want to make this about science, it is more about my soul because I will always have this moment with me.
The Preface of Food Memory
It had been a long time since I had been able to be home; I go back to the ranch now and feel free. Maybe it’s the calm and quiet beauty. Maybe it’s the scent of brisk mountain air and gentle lowing of cattle.
Either way, it feels like a weight is lifted.
On the ranch, when one meal isn’t cooking, preparation for the next meal is underway or maybe putting up the harvest is in full force.
My parents raise hundreds of pounds of vegetables from their garden and they are in their 80s. Talk about no small feat for anyone.
“I really love crabapple jelly.” says my Dad, after inquiring him about this beautiful tree, which happened to be loaded with crabapples.
The gentle, quiet type, my Dad bringing this up is of significance.
So, I quickly grab an apple bucket and start picking those beautiful little gems.
The crisp air smells of early fall with hints of apple making the confirmation of fall ingrained in my memory.
This particular crabapple tree on the ranch has some legend; it has been the meal of a grizzly bear or two. Comical in nature at times, these bears grab the leaves, twigs, and apples by the paw-fulls and shove it all into their mouths.
Making Crabapple Jam Memories
I know my mom will go along with it, even though she will assume a large volume of the “work”. As much as I am a good chef, I am in no way as meticulous and detailed as her.
But I can find recipes. Ha! I found this great one that you can make too. No processed anything in it, only a touch of wild honey for sweetness: (2).
The end result is nothing short of magical. The beautiful pink color from the skin of the crabapple makes this jam look surreal.
The smell in the air of fresh, fragrant little crabapples is reminiscent of rose blossoms and hot cider.
Crabapple cooking is much less difficult than large apples. They don’t have to be peeled, cored or cut. Honestly, it’s the perfect way to cook apples. Simply wash the apples, put them in the pan and wait until they pop!
Chances are, you never will find a crabapple in a store, but you will find them in falling to the ground in your yard or your neighbors.
They even might seem like a nuisance to pick up and deal with the mess left behind in the fall. Don’t let them be. Turn them into something magical.
Finding a place for them in your kitchen is truly memorable. Make your own food memories, starting today; create a day with your favorite people and fill the house with the aroma of crisp fall days.
Crabapples As Health Enhancers
You bite into one, and you know you have something that is potent. It’s the bite that bites you back. One nibble should tell you that it could be medicinal. These tart little gems are so nutritious and have been considered medicinal for as long as history is recorded.
I could go on for days about health benefits of crabapples and apples in general. They are closely related and of the same botanical genus, Malus.
Since the impetus of this blog is about food memories, I will give a brief synopsis of some of the researched benefits of apples.
I laughed as I researched nutrition facts about crabapples (Nutrient Data). USDA data states that 1 cup has 83 calories and 22 grams carbohydrate! I dare anyone to try to eat 1 cup of these super-tart little apples. Kind of hilarious.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” maybe shouldn’t be just an urban legend. A long list of health benefits of apples likely keeps you from getting ill, from improving cholesterol to reducing cancer risk. (3)
Intriguingly, apples both reduce the “bad” cholesterol and improve the “good” cholesterol. They have antimicrobial properties and can reduce oral bacterial content by as much as 80%.
Apples boost immune response, have antibacterial properties, so much so that they may help fight influenza. (4)
Apples may help keep the oncologist away. Research shows that eating at least an apple a day reduces the risk of oral, pharyngeal, ovarian, colon and breast cancer. (5)
Maybe the grizzly bears in my parent’s yard know something we don’t.
A recent study found that crabapple leaves further confirms that crabapples have strong anti-cancer properties. (6) A substance called dihydrochalsones from crabapples “red splendor” variety exert both strong antioxidant and anticancer effects.
Quercetin also may protect your brain cells from damage. Make sure to eat the skin for the most concentrated source of quercetin (9).
And crabapples are rich in quercetin (10).
Along with raw mint leaves and lettuce, apples reduce garlic breath as well, so it may be great to eat before a kiss.(11).
Another way to make great memories.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 20 years, has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. Has researched supplements and plants as medicine throughout her career. Loves helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.