The Memory of Pickled Beetroot Juice
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Photo by Vita Marija Murenaite / Unsplash
Good Food

The Memory of Pickled Beetroot Juice

The Beauty of Inherited Culinary Traditions
Monika Kucia
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time 7 minutes

Culinary traditions spring forth from the past and become rejuvenated, much like the way new shoots emerge anew from an age-old tree in springtime. Recipes for traditional bread and cheese, for spicy curries and pierogi dumplings, get passed down in places as diverse as New York, Delhi, and Poland’s highlander region of Podhale.

Sharing a recipe is like sharing a secret. It is, essentially, an act of great trust, giving away part of your story, your treasure. A shoebox stuffed full of memories, an old notebook with carefully handwritten recipes for ginger snaps and sourdough bread, the taste of which you so vividly recall. Recipes try hard to capture something ephemeral and fleeting, sometimes by using such old-fashioned terms as ‘Siberian buckwheat’ (simply buckwheat), by describing the shade of ‘gosling green’ (light green), or by calling for ćwiklas (a dusty old Polish word for pickled beetroot juice). Words that are slowly disappearing forever, blending into the background, fading like an old photograph. The taste of żurek, a classic Polish sour rye soup, cannot truly be conveyed by a recipe in a notebook. Its memory is

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An Archive of Taste
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Photo by Jonathan Pielmayer / Unsplash
Good Food

An Archive of Taste

The Lingering Memory of Flavour
Monika Kucia

Bread with butter and salt, a slightly burnt crust and soft crumb, the taste of fat and the crunching of salty crystals. The bliss comes when I’m eating while standing up, swaying above the table, spreading crumbs all over my book, my computer, my skirt. I bite huge chunks off, each time feeling softness, crunchiness and fatness all at once. Whenever you eat bread, you’re at home.

Certain tastes carve out a rut in your mind, creating a permanent association with that one specific flavour or smell; that one and only feeling on your tongue and in your heart. This experience has been recorded in literature as ‘the madeleine phenomenon’. It’s thanks to these pathways through culinary memories that a person can sometimes weep while eating a meatloaf in a fancy restaurant. A familiar taste comes back, the memory hits like a wave, and presto! You’ve travelled through time to arrive at some far-flung and emotion-laden destination in your past.

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