Rose Osborne, 67, was a registered nurse for 45 years before retiring to become a personal historian, owner and creator of Write My Journey, a life story writing service that turns memories into a beautiful hardcover book.
Family foods can be a powerful trigger for original memory. Original memory is that deep memory that may be resting in your mind and probably is a forgotten life event. It is different from that daily memory that you use to tell your favourite stories over and over, or you use to remember your grocery list at the supermarket.
Original memory is harder to connect with, and can be triggered by a sensory stimulus of some kind. You know you are experiencing an original memory when you find yourself immersed in the experience or actually feeling it. This is different to your everyday memory where it may feel like you are retelling a story that you can see in your mind.
When original memory hits you, it is often felt as déjà vu. Foods connected with your past can do this to you. Sometimes you want to connect, but quite often, can’t regain the taste or experience. I have that problem with scones. I chase the scone my mum made from when I was ever so young, to recent times. Mum’s great-grandchildren and her grandchildren remember her by her scones. It is their memory of her. However, there is much more to it than they know.
Mum started making scones when I was very young. Bread was expensive and she could only afford half a loaf from the horse-driven delivery van. Scones made with our milk source, powdered sunshine milk, were cheap and always fresh. By the time, milk came in bottles, Mum would put us to bed for an afternoon sleep, and sit listening to music as she scraped off the cream that drifted to the top of the milk bottle to put on her fresh scones and homemade jam. When she became an ‘empty-nest’ grandmother, she had perfected her scones with lemonade and still using the sunshine milk, and was entering them into the local town show. She won award after award, no-one could make lighter or whiter scones. I long for those white scones and so does she from her nursing home room. It is her only regret.
Annie has shared with us how scones bring wonderful memories of her Nan.
“My Nan taught me the skill of making scones when I was not quite three. With an apron tied under my armpits, I stood on a chair beside the well-scrubbed farmhouse table to rub home-made butter into the flour.
‘Lift your wee hands up out of the bowl,’ Nan instructed as she stoked the trusty cast-iron AGA cooker. Breaking an egg into a cup of buttermilk was a task best achieved slowly and with help, I learned by hard experience. I would cut the mixture together with a bone-handled knife. The results were always delicious and served warm with Nan’s jam and fresh scalded cream.”
What wonderful memories are there for Annie of her Nan - her touch, her feel, her smell, and so many other things, the cooker, the bone-handled knife.
The aroma of scones brings powerful memories to Helen of her younger years living with her family on a property.
“When my grandmother made scones, we all knew about it. The delicious smell would drift out her back door, down the path and into our cottage. Everyone gathered around the table and slathered warm scones with home-made jam and fresh cream from the cow’s milk at my Uncle’s diary. It is an evocative and enduring memory.
After WWI, my grandfather purchased a parcel of land on the outskirts of Sydney, as it was then. My grandfather helped each family member build their own house and I think it was a penny swap deal, as Grandad never made any money. So our extended family were altogether. This was important to Grandad to keep the family together, like in his Scottish clan background.
My grandparents lived in the big house at the front of the property. We could always smell what was happening in the kitchen – especially the Sunday roast. They were happy days.
I remember visiting my Uncle’s farm close by – it was a highlight. We would see the cows milked by hand and the cream scooped from the top of the milk pale. It was worth the mud and messiness rounding up the cows.
I think my Aunt who lived next door did all the bottling and preserving of the jam. I didn’t know until I was much older that people bought jam already in jars from a shop.”
Details of those memories and many more could be forgotten for Helen without the trigger of the food odours coming from her grandmother’s kitchen door.
What foods create family stories for you and how important are they? It’s time to document your stories before they go missing permanently. They are too precious to lose.
A big thank you to Annie and Helen for sharing their stories.
OFFER: If you would like Write My Journey to write your life story, contact us for a FREE 15-minute review on your life story. Rose Osborne also does guest speaking to small groups on Writing your Life. If you want more information, read your way through my website, www.writemyjourney.com.