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Food Memories: What Your Mind and Body are Telling You

Updated on November 26, 2012

You can remember a perfect meal long after you have eaten it. The experience may never be replicated again. This is true of both cooking food and eating it, and it also works for both good and ill. Psychology is at play at all levels of the senses vital to the processes of cooking and dining. When all is said and done, will your next project be one of the highlights or something you wish you could repress? There are reasons we remember and reasons we forget, whether we want to or not.

If something makes us sick, we may never eat it again; it doesn't have to happen on the first time, either. We owe this phenomenon to the body's natural defenses. This isn't always the food's fault, though. Sometimes you are already sick and don't know it, or you get motion sickness. Still, the damage is done and you may never it again because it brings back memories of being sick. On the other hand, when you eat something you don't like, you merely avoid it until you forget why you didn't like it and try it again. Then, one of two things may happen. Either your sense of taste has changed and you like it now, or you get an unpleasant reminder of why you didn't like it and still don't. In other cases, the risk may be worth it if something tastes great but doesn't agree with you in the end.

At least three of the five senses are engaged. Our sense of sight helps us pick out what we think we want. Our sense of smell gives us an idea of how it might taste. Even if our sense of taste agrees, our digestive systems may not. It is then up to our judgment to decide what to do about it. Always be aware of foods that you or others are allergic to, and try to cut out ingredients that may not be as pleasing from start to finish. While one slip-up may not damage your reputation, it may still haunt you if the incident was severe enough to give you pause. For example, the smell of smoke might trigger memories of a time when you may have accidentally burned something really badly and had a fire in your kitchen, and you are afraid it might happen again. Experiences like that can also contribute to mental blocks in cooking. In other cases, the problem is more subtle and harder to pin down. The trick is to figure out what went wrong and why. Depending on what it was, good luck with that. Once you understand, you can improve or at least try not to repeat the same mistake. Athletes aren't the only ones that can come down with a case of the yips. Sometimes things happen for a reason, and sometimes problems may arise spontaneously and unexpectedly.

In summation, trust what your senses are telling you. Your past experiences are memorable for one reason or another, and you can either live by them or challenge them. Whether or not your chosen course of action is wise is for you to decide. Ultimately, you are answerable only to yourself and to whomever else you cook for (if you are in fact the one doing the cooking). Don't give up, and don't let setbacks prevent you from pursuing what you like. Time will tell what works and what doesn't; while some things may change, others will remain the same. To quote Red vs Blue again, "Memory is the key."


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