Brain Food #380

Everyone has their madeleine

Daily Brain Food.

Thoughts of the day

If you ever wonder why you sometimes crave a specific dish or flavour, maybe a specific casserole, or a peach, this could simply indicate a desire to reconnect to your past.

Involuntary memory is also known as ‘a madeleine moment’, made famous by Marcel Proust and his prolonged description of how the narrator of In Search of Lost Time eats a madeleine dipped in tea and is transported back to his childhood:

“No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. ... Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? ... 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. And all from my cup of tea.”

Perhaps memories do not disappear but are deeply concealed within us, our brains waiting for the right trigger to help them resurface.

We all have a madeleine; it’s just a matter of tasting it, not merely eating it.


File:Jacques-Emile Blanche Portrait de Marcel Proust 1892.jpg

Jacques-Emile Blanche Portrait of Marcel Proust, 1892


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