I have a recipe index card in my collection from Marcel Proust.
You know those pre-printed recipe index cards? They were made especially to help the home cook organize recipes, to be stored in a little box made to fit the size of the card – an early form of the database. They were often decorated with charming old-fashioned drawings of cast iron stoves, fat bellied pots, cornucopias of vegetables, and the like. Then there were lines for “Recipe…”, “Serves…”, “From the kitchen of…” and the rest left blank for filling in the instructions. I’m afraid, like computer floppy disks, cassette tapes and VHS videos, recipe index cards can probably now be classed as dead media.
My recipe index card from Marcel Proust is actually from my Polish-American uncle who, when writing out his family’s recipe for Polish dill pickles, left the line on the card “Recipe from the kitchen of” blank. I remember asking him why he didn’t fill it in and he replied – with a mischievous grin – that it was from the kitchen of Marcel Proust. I must have been in my early teens at the time and this left me completely baffled.
Years later (and more literate), I could only think that the reason behind that attribution was because Marcel Proust, French author (1871-1922), famously captured the connection between food and memory in his novel Remembrance of Things Past (original French, À la recherche du temps perdu).
It also dawned on me that the concept – sensual memories of tastes, scents, textures of food – is a major influence on this blog. Memories of food embody where we came from, what we’ve experienced and reflect our interactions with others by incorporating their experiences and traditions into our own. A new take on the saying “You are What You Eat”.
This is a multi-cultural concept. A number of years back, we attempted to find international films on DVD that embodied the idea of memory and food: Like Water for Chocolate (Mexican), Babette’s Feast (Danish), Eat Drink Man Woman (Chinese), Chocolat (French), A Touch of Spice (Greek) and Mostly Martha (German). And, I’m sure there are more.
At some time in the future I’ll share the recipe for Polish Dill Pickles “from Marcel Proust” when cucumbers are plentiful, fresh and crisp.
Meanwhile, I will continue to share my food experiences, from my past, from newer experiences, and from techniques, traditions and tastes I’ve shared with others.