Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sense Memories

Tonight, I opened another package I came across in my studio. It was a next-day-delivery item, a month old, that I'd hidden in a 'special place'. Hiding things is a habit left over from when I lived in rough neighbourhoods where my home and car were often broken into and possessions stolen or smashed – sometimes by people I knew.
I'd secreted this package away because it was from two collectors to whom I am particularly close. I knew it'd contain something special. The problem with my 'secret places' is that they change so often – and I forget where exactly they are – I lose things in them for months.
Anyway, inside the package was a hardcover, A4-sized book. Each time I've visited these collectors, they've cooked the most exquisite food for me. I've often asked how they learned to cook so well. They offered to write down some of the recipes to share them with me.
Which they've done in this book – but in a way that's so lovingly detailed and intimate that I don't really know how to describe it. Each page is filled with handwriting and photographs – letters to me, recipes and cooking instructions, diary-like entries of their days, family gatherings with notes about handed-down recipes and (to my further delight) fashion.
I haven't read it all properly, yet – I'm still shocked that anyone would take the trouble to make a whole book just for me – but it's already amongst my few most treasured possessions.
I've heard people speak about the emotional link between food and family or friends, about the meanings it holds for them. I've never really understood it. I make meals that I remember my mother cooking but it's never a specific recipe, just similar ingredients. Now I know what it is to be able to prepare, smell and taste a particular food that I have shared with people I care deeply about. It can, within minutes, dissolve the physical distance between us.

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