My Madeleine

And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it; . . . . But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.
— from Remembrance of Things Past, by Marcel Proust (aka The Cookie)

Today’s Writing Group prompt: Do you have any foods that are tied to specific memories or emotions?

Huh. The title of this prompt was Eat Your Feelings, which is an actual thing that I do, so at first I was thrown by the substance of the prompt. But then I remembered that just last Sunday, on my birthday, driving home from dinner at the tapas restaurant where David and I had our first date, I posted this on Facebook:

It’s amazing how a piece of crusty bread with chorizo and manchego can so thoroughly transport me back to Spain. Proust was on to something.

So of course there could be no other quote to head this post. I’m telling you, I sighed audibly when I took my first bite last weekend. And really, I don’t even need the chorizo or the manchego.  Sometimes just olive oil, with a little salt and pepper, for dipping.  And sometimes just the bread is enough to send me back, especially when it’s still warm.

One of my favorite things in the whole world to do with the crusty bread is something I discovered in Spain: pan con tomate (I almost wish I  could reuse the quote from that post for this one – too perfect).  Trust me on this one. This is the dish that brings me most immediately back to Spain – to so many tiny restaurants in Barcelona where I had it for the first time, to Salamanca where I made all my new study abroad friends try it and felt like a native, to a private room at a restaurant way up in the hills way outside Barcelona with one old friend and 12 new ones where I had it for the last time in Spain. I’m tearing up just thinking about the last one now – I remember sitting there that night, listening to five different conversations floating around me – in both Spanish and Catalan – drinking wine, sharing bread (I don’t even remember what else we ate), laughing so loud, thinking how lucky I was and how I’d always remember that moment.


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