Experience: Memory in Taste

Have you ever had a memory attached to a specific scent or taste?

This is the story of one of mine, of which I am reminded whenever I attempt to enjoy macadamia nuts.

Long ago, during one of my multitude of jobs, I worked at a small ‘mom and pop’ natural food market. I’m pretty sure it was a Sunday, as I can remember it being cold, dark and rather lonely. Sundays were always slow and thinking back on it, I hardly remember why they wanted to keep the store open – and why I even had that position. I guess trying to pay for college had something to do with it.

At any rate, among the dozens of edibles not to be found in any place I had seen up to that point in my life, some became my favorite snacks eve to now. I would often enjoy a discounted tub of wasabi covered peas, or salted seaweed, or – the BEST – slices of dried mango. But there was a section designated for the nuts – hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, walnuts, cashews, sure. All these I knew.

But packaged tiny ziplocks were strange nuts I had never known. These were the macadamia nuts, and though I must have tasted a few while I had personally packaged them as we did (quality control, you see.) I don’t recall remembering the taste all that well. So, on that lazy, frosty Sunday, I got myself a bag and munched away.

I remember thoroughly enjoying myself. To this day I still do not dislike a macadamia nut. I remember liking the taste, the waxy crunch, the cold center. But I did not like the centipede.

Fortunately for me, the cameras in that establishment were fakes and could not have recorded my reaction. Fortunately for you, dear readers, the bug in question merely scurried out from under a nearby shelf I had disturbed and had nearly taken my foot with it.

It was that long-legged kind of centipede, of which I’d only seen its like in a documentary about giant cave life. It was a most disagreeable looking thing, but admittedly it had done me no harm, so I captured it with a plastic tub (and lid!) and let it outside.

I’ve seen these things once or twice in the years to come, but never so big. And thanks to that, whenever I bite into anything containing macadamia nuts, I think of one of these. I think it’s been about seven years. But on the bright side, turns out the little beasties are insectivores, so if you see one, give it a hug.

Thankfully I hadn’t been eating mango at the time.

It’s experiences like this that help me in thinking of characters and how their memories affect them. How about you, dear, readers? Are there tastes/smells that trigger memories in you, or your characters?

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