Something that I absolutely love about food is the way it triggers my imagination. There are certain tastes, for instance, that transport me to other places in other times. For example, I can’t bite into a cornichon without immediately feeling the cool air of France and hearing that other language chattering around me. There’s something that happens in the way we experience food that glues memories in like a profound experience.
I remember hearing about rat experiments in my one and only psychology course. They do these strange and cruel tricks to the rats to see what behavioral changes occur. One experiment I clearly remember was when they’d put a rat in a maze with some cheese and if it ate the cheese it was given an electric shock. I guess it only takes a couple of shocks before the rats resist the cheese. No amount of self-loathing and diet depravation has taught me to resist the cheese. I guess it’s because its negative impact isn’t so immediate.
But the taste of the food itself is immediate and has left an imprint on my brain. I’m sure there isn’t one of you out there who doesn’t recall the comfort of a warm dumpling or the fresh cold taste of a just-cut melon. For me, it’s the salty, sour, savory crunch of a cornichon that takes me back to a cool French garden on a happy summer afternoon.