The Power of Nostalgic Foods

Why certain foods can evoke memories and emotion.


Family, Happiness

( - Yuri A /

Are there any foods that, when you have them, bring you back to your childhood or to a happy time in your life? Maybe it's warm apple pie straight from the oven, perhaps a certain flavor, or maybe traditional holiday food. Sometimes just thinking of them can evoke nostalgia and give you the feels. According to Health News, the taste or just the thought of certain foods, a taste or even the smell can trigger the memories.

Smell, taste and memory
Sometimes you try to remember a piece of information. For example, you need to remember someone’s address or phone number when filling out a form. Other times, explains Health News, the memory is triggered involuntarily, in other words, you weren't trying to remember something, the memory came to mind “on its own”. That second type of memory is called involuntary explicit memory, and that is what can happen when you smell, taste or think of a food and it reminds you of something. 

These memories, reports the  Huffington Post, can feel pretty powerful. They are a sensory experience, they explain, and some think of it as one of the most powerful types of emotion. There are lots of associations involved and context matters. 

For example, if preparing turkey for Thanksgiving dinner together with your family was a whole experience and you have lots of fond memories of that, just thinking of grilled turkey can give you warm and happy feelings of family, cozy weather, holiday time, bonding with your family, etc. There is a lot of symbolism involved. At the same time, the memories aren’t always necessarily positive. Just like fresh, cold watermelon can remind you of summertime and the beach, there can be foods that remind you of less pleasant experiences. 

Bringing people together through food
According to a study conducted by the University of Tennessee, food plays a significant role in culture and connection. It has the power to bring people together. Oxford University supports this, showing that people who eat with others are more likely to feel satisfied, happy and at peace with their lives. This might explain why food memories help create a sense of connection. Perhaps it goes both ways, with connection being created by food, and memories of the food reminding you and reinforcing that connection.

Food and food memories are remarkably powerful. The sensory experiences created by the food states with you, deep in your psyche. Then in the future, certain foods can trigger your memories of joy, nostalgia and so many other emotions. Perhaps, knowing the power of nostalgic foods, it is worth going out of your way and creating these positive memories. Enjoy cooking up some happy food memories!

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