Which foods have evoked visceral reactions that link you to your past?

In French writer Marcel Proust’s seminal novel, In Search Of Lost Time, he recounted how eating a madeleine cake as an adult instantly evoked memories from his childhood of seeing his aunt dip her madeleine cake in tea. Ever since, any involuntary memory that evokes your past has been known as a “Proustian moment”.

My recent BBC Travel article, “Why food memories are so powerful” shows how my body’s memory of eating currants, wild strawberries and blueberries as a young child made me return to a country that no longer exists to discover my family’s secret past.

I’m the one with the glasses in the black and white photo in our summer home in Lithuania, where I devoured wild berries as a little kid.

Biting into wild berries wasn’t just a single Proustian moment, but an entire chapter of my family’s past that I had to reassemble. I flew to Lithuania to find the berries I devoured as a toddler and the family of a small-town barber who risked his own safety to help my family escape the USSR.

Me with gooseberries that I was thrilled to find in a Californian grocery store in the winter! The berries had been imported from Chile.


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