Food Creates Lasting Memories

Food Creates Lasting Memories

By Paul Messinger

I’ve always loved to eat. I don’t eat large quantities, but I savor specific tastes and aromas associated with food. A particular smell can evoke sweet memories for me. When I get a whiff of a particular food aroma, the smell often reminds me of another place and another time in my life. Food smells usually bring me good memories, along with an occasional not so good one.

For instance, when I smell sauerkraut, I think of northern Michigan when I was very young. Farmers there favored growing cabbage because of its short growing season. Farm families often made kraut, added meat and that was our dinner staple during the long, cold winters.

The smell of chicken frying also reminds me of my boyhood farm days. When you are in the egg business as we were, your baby chicks are almost all pullets. But there are always a few roosters that must be eaten by the farmers’ families. Each spring we ate lots of chicken as the roosters grew to supper size. The rest of the year we ate the non-laying chickens.

My wife Cora and I have always associated Cornish pasties with the Great Highway near the beach on the west side of San Francisco. That’s where I attended the College of Mortuary Science during our first year of marriage. On Sunday nights, we loved to go out for Cornish pasties. The nights were cold and often windy. Dining on those great tasting, right-out-of-the-oven Cornish pasties imprinted their aroma on our memories.

Many years later, we visited a small fishing village in Cornwall, England. It was cold and windy. Our traveling companions ordered (what else?) Cornish pasties. The cold immediately transported Cora and me back to fond memories of the Great Highway. The pasties in Cornwall tasted and smelled as good as we remembered.

Non-food smells can also remind me of other favorite places and foods. I remember the smell of my grandfather’s drug store in Fulton, Indiana. Bill Butler’s Scottsdale drug store in the 1940s reminded me of grandfather’s store. Both drug stores always made me think of ice cream. Neither store actually smelled like ice cream, of course, because the ice cream was kept frozen in the soda fountain. I did enjoy plenty of ice cream and chocolate sodas in both places, as well as the musty smell of old time drug ingredients like camphor and alcohol.

These days the smells and tastes that Cora and I experience and enjoy at home are more varied than in days gone by. We no longer grow our own food, but buy products from around the world from stores like Basha’s. One day we have a US steak. The next day could be fish from Australia. Cora feeds me a variety of foods fit for royalty. To this day, I continue to savor smells and tastes, building fond, new memories.

Paul Messinger was reared on a dairy farm. He is a former Scottsdale city councilman (1971-76), state legislator (1979-85), and honored oral historian devoted to maintaining and promoting the city’s history. He and his wife Cora founded Messinger Mortuaries in 1959 and can be reached at 480-860-2300 or 480-945-9521.