“She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called “petites madeleines,” which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. 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. … Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy?
And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray … my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. … 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.”
It is remarkable how certain sensations can transport you instantly back to a specific time in your life. The taste of Dr Pepper makes me feel like I’m 9 years old, sitting in a country club in Salina Kansas. I’m eating a grilled cheese sandwich and potato chips, trying to figure out what all the adults are talking about.
Music works that way as well – songs are associated with periods in your life to such an extent that you can’t listen to them without all of the pain or pleasure you felt at that time resurfacing in you. When I was a teenager, I used to hear Mozart’s clarinet quintet in my head whenever I felt anxious. I listened to it recently, and, rather than elevate me away from my anxiety, it somehow stirred all the anxiety I had tried to escape. It’s still ridiculously beautiful, though.
Is there some food or some song that works as a time-traveling device for you?