The expression ‘food memories’ has come up at several events I have been at over the last few weeks, it’s one of those ‘strong phrases’ that I find myself thinking cynically about. I don’t hate it like I do the word ‘foodie’, but the reoccurrence of this phrase finally found me thinking about how important it is to have a positive memory and not just the ones of “eat your greens” and “think of the starving children in Africa” that so many of us have.
I do remember my mother making my dinner into paddocks with mash fields, carrot fences, broccoli trees and little pea sheep but that’s not the sort of memories I have been pondering.
One of my earliest memories is walking hand in hand with my mum along a dusty road, with an empty billycan to collect milk from a nearby the dairy farm (the first stone being laid for my desire to support local farmers). The taste of fresh warm creamy milk, the sounds and smell of a dairy and the sensation of feeding hand reared male dairy calves are intertwined with childhood memories of life in country Victoria. As too is visiting our local bee keeper, fishing from the pier, picking and eating the world’s best cherries, making little jammy treats left over pasty, shelling freshly caught prawns around the table of our caravan and cooking toast in front of the lounge room fire with the beef dripping pot and freshly cracked pepper at the ready.
There was always a pot on the stove as you entered my mum’s kitchen; the table was often laden with something a neighbour had a glut of and had gifted to us. Seasonal eating (she’s is a fantastic gardener) and preserving were being subliminally instilled into my psyche. And the thought of an extra few people for dinner would never faze her. Her greatest gift to me was the knowledge that “you can always put another cup of water in the soup” meaning, if you make people welcome around your table, the food will always stretch – the philosophy of a generous host, a good cook and also her underlying faith.
My father’s role in this remembering process is his gift to me of imagination. Without exception I use this with fervour every day; it creates new taste combinations, it instilled a desire to travel, it solves problems from viewing them outside the box and it gives me a sense of adventure and the belief that anything is possible.
Combined, these are two of the strongest elements make me who I am, without which I would not be me. Both often drive my friends and family crazy.
So there it is, as the saying goes, the apple does not fall far from the tree and food memories can play a large role in shaping not only what you eat but the person you become.