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Does your food remind you of something or someone?

It’s funny… when I eat feta cheese, I am fondly reminded of my childhood friend, Georgia Saffos.

Not because she is Greek and so is feta cheese, but because she was the first person that introduced me to the flavor of feta cheese. It was salty, creamy, crumbly, and smelled different than the other cheeses I grew up eating.

It smelled like it was from a different type of animal.

And, it was!

I grew up eating cow-based cheeses like cheddar, swiss, Jarlsberg, blue, and Monterey Jack, and feta was from sheep or goat.

Needless to say, it had a different smell and taste. And, I LOVED it!

Food, specifically the aromas in food, trigger the limbic system, and our emotional brain.

The olfactory bulb, and your ability to smell, are part of the brain’s limbic system and will often bring up memories of people, places, events, or anything else that was happening when you first took a whiff of any new food.

“The olfactory bulb has intimate access to the amygdala, which processes emotion, and the hippocampus, which is responsible for associative learning.”[1]

That means when we smell something (especially, for the first time), we often associate it with a person, place, or thing.

It’s hard-wired into our learning and survival systems from infancy to adulthood.[2]

Any aroma can trigger a memory.

Our ability to taste foods is also directly connected to our sense of smell. It’s one of the reasons why the smell of food, in general, can bring up memories.

Next time you’re sitting at your favorite meal, ask yourself:

  • Why do I love this particular food?
  • Was something good happening when I first tasted it?
  • Was I preparing this food with someone?
  • Was I sitting with someone who I love when I ate it?
  • Was I feeling safe and happy at that time?

The opposite can happen as well.

Some food aromas can trigger traumatic or not-so-good memories.

An ex-boyfriend once told me he did not like to eat anything with basil in it. He said his mom put the herb into everything and he couldn’t stand it!

The truth is, he didn’t have a good relationship with his mom, so his aversion to that culinary herb is understandable. It reminded him of her and he associated the smell (and taste) of basil with unpleasant feelings about his mom.

I bet if he would’ve gotten some much-needed therapy around the relationship with his mom, it might have improved his feelings about the flavor of basil as well.

Do any foods or aromas bring up any memories for you, either good or bad?

I’m sure you could list at least one!

Take a whiff at your next meal and see what or who comes up for you.

For me… feta always reminds me of my childhood friendships.

Here’s one of my favorite summer salads, with Feta.

Love you, Georgia!

[1] http://health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/human-nature/perception/smell3.htm

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK55967/