In Food

Food Memories

Posted by: on Aug 22, 2012 | 7 Comments

Food is a strong trigger for memory–the smells, tastes, and the bonds that are formed around a bite or a meal last much longer than the food itself. There are foods we associate with pain and sickness and happiness and comfort. In the novel Like Water for Chocolate, Tita’s emotions imbue the food. She bakes a cake when she’s incredibly sad and everyone that eats the cake bursts into tears. But perhaps it’s the opposite–every emotion we feel while eating imbues our memory of that food. For me food is also often connected to the people who prepared it or loved it. As cliché as it sounds, apple pie always reminds me of my mom and grandma. I see their hands making the crust, heads bent  as they roll out the dough or cut the apples. I can see both sitting and peeling apples. Ironically, pork chops always make me think of my sister, who no longer eats pork at all (but then neither do I).

Unfortunately, we all reach times in our life where memories are all we have left and then we cling to those for dear life. My daddy passed away and I find myself in this terrible position, desperately trying to hang on to any and every memory and feeling I have–the way he smelled, sounded, gestured, loved my sister and I, even his silence. And then there is food. For me, two foods are inextricably linked to my daddy–blueberries and potatoes.

When we were really little, my daddy would make homemade potato chips for my sister and I. He’d slice the potatoes really thin, fry them in a cast iron skillet, sprinkle them with salt, and let them cool before giving them to us. My sister and I would sit on the counter as close as he’d let us so we wouldn’t get splattered with the hot oil. I like to think we wanted to sit on the counter as much to see what he was doing as to be close to him. I haven’t had those potato chips in ages. But I remember them clearly. I’d give anything to have just one.

For a long time, my daddy raked blueberries in Maine in August. My sister and I spent every summer with him. And every August we’d head off to the blueberry fields in the camper. I was too young to rake. And although I never wanted to, I had to go to camp every day. I wanted to go with my daddy to the fields. One day he let me. I raked a half of a bucket. It’s really hard work and I was really small. In the evenings the workers would gather around a fire. My sister and I (and probably other children) would walk on their backs to massage them from being bent over rakes all day. We ate a lot of blueberries. We ate them fresh and in pancakes. My sister quickly got sick of blueberries. I still love them and they always make me think of him.

The day after I found out I’d lost him I took refuge in the blueberry bushes. It was a beautiful day, hot and sunny with a light breeze blowing off the bay. The blueberries were ripe, plump, and sweet. The bushes were high unlike the ones in Maine. So, instead of bending over them, I wriggled my way into the centers of them to pick the biggest ones.

I am thankful for these memories and for the way he loved us unconditionally. And although I know he’s with me wherever I am because we love each other, nothing takes away the pain.


  1. Diane
    August 23, 2012

    Hali, honey, I just cried and cried when I read your post. As well as food memories being healing, eating the food itself can heal both body and spirit. Go for those blueberries and potatoes, and keep the wonderful memories of your daddy close to your heart. Lots of love.

  2. Beth
    August 23, 2012

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful piece about your father and berries/potatoes. I know that all of us think of someone else when considering certain food. We are such a food based entities. Great post.

  3. Grandma
    August 27, 2012

    Oh, Hali that is so lovely.
    It made me tear up again – what a great loss.
    I know you’ve managed to go on with your life, but it aint easy, is it? Next to Max, there was nobody more important in your life.
    How I do love you! I’ll call you soon.
    Much love & hugs,

  4. Betsy Rogers
    August 29, 2012

    Hali Darling, I think of you all the time! This is a Very Beautiful piece you have written! I’m so glad you have those memories! And I think to have those two foods to remind you of your Daddy is a blessing…. because you will remember him often and think of the nurturing and wholesome and loving feeling that still surrounds you….so quiet, but there!
    I LOVE you and only wish I could ease your pain!

  5. Laura
    August 30, 2012

    Hali, what a beautiful post. I know exactly what you mean about food and memories. Angel food cake will forever remind me of my grandma, she always had one made when we came to visit. So sorry to hear about your dad. Sending virtual hugs your way.

  6. Lois
    September 4, 2012

    Hali, Catching up on email and just now reading your post. What a lovely tribute to your father and family. Thinking of you!

  7. Hali
    October 15, 2012

    I just wanted to thank all of you for your kind comments. Thanks for reading and thanks for your support and love.


Leave a Reply