A Family of Flavor

I recently read the book The Memory of Lemon by Judith Fertig (a more detailed synopsis and explanation is coming on our monthly book post in a couple of weeks) where the sense of taste and the experience of flavor, is an important component of the story.  As I was reading the discussion questions at the end of the book (yes I weirdly read the questions even when I have no one to discuss the book with), one question intrigued me which was whether dessert flavors run in families and, if so what flavor is a favorite in your family?

I started to think about this a bit.  First, I think we can all agree that food plays a huge role in every family.  Every family has food traditions around a holiday, a day of the week or some other special occasion.  For some of my favorite memories, I can remember food that was at the event.  I remember that when we would visit my grandparents in the summer, we often would make homemade ice cream.  It was always vanilla.  And we would like to crank the hand churned ice cream maker until it became too hard to do that.  Then my dad would take over and we would be commissioned to sit our little behinds on top of the ice cream maker (on top a stack of newspapers) to help the ice cream maker still while it got harder and harder to churn.

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I remember that at my wedding, we had a formal sit down dinner with a first salad course.  I loved the salad at our tasting that had strawberries and goat cheese as a topper on spring greens.  Tom, though, hates mixing fruit in anything where he thinks it does not belong like a lettuce salad.  A compromise was reached and he received a regular garden salad because after all he was the groom.

In our house, we always had hamburgers for dinner on Saturday night after mass.  This was a tradition my dad grew up and funnily enough when Tom and I do not have a social commitment on a Saturday, we eat hamburgers on Saturday night as well.

I think because of those memories and experiences there are flavors in your family that everyone gravitates towards.  I am sure many of us have had that Thanksgiving dinner away from “home” where something doesn’t seem quite right because the turkey stuffing doesn’t taste the same.

And maybe some of it is genetics.  My mom, my youngest brother and I tend to gravitate toward desserts that are not overly chocolatey.  We tend to select desserts having more of a vanilla flavor like pound cake, plain cheesecake or shortbread cookies.  My dad and other brother, however, really preferred chocolate.  My dad’s birthday cake of choice was always German Chocolate.  None of my brothers or I like coconut which was very telling when my youngest brother at a young age requested his slice of Dad’s birthday cake without the German.   However, everyone in the family really likes angel food cake and chocolate chip cookies.

And possibly some of the flavors you prefer can indicate compatibility.  If you ask Tom and I, who obviously are not genetically related (thank goodness because that would be a disaster), about what kind of birthday cake we prefer, we will each tell you independently that we would like a yellow cake with chocolate frosting for our birthdays.  This has always been my favorite birthday cake as well as his.  And, he thankfully hates coconut as well.  Also, if we both love coffee (good thing since that was our first date) and if we occasionally have a treat with coffee it a sugar cookie or a piece of lemon pound cake.  Always a good thing when you can share a dessert to spread out the calories.

The sense of taste and flavors is such a powerful memory trigger.  It is interesting to think that we share the commonalities with the members of our family or loved one as a bond over our shared experiences and memories.

Does your family have some favorite flavors?  And you are welcome to share recipes with me 🙂 –June

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