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Diner in search of lost time

wong-jessica-52.jpg
by Jessica Wong, CBCNews.ca

Food can elicit such a range of emotions — in my case, it's most often excitement, yearning, curiosity and wonder. Of late, however, the feeling I'm returning to again and again seems to be nostalgia.

This lingering feeling may have been sparked by an ode to old-fashioned frosted cakes I read a few months back or perhaps the Proust-like response I've had recently upon hearing the tinkling, summertime sound of ice cream trucks lazily weaving through my neighbourhood (and invoking childhood memories of playing with cousins at my grandmother's house).

This week, at a belly-busting dinner with some relatives I haven't seen in a long time, an average plate of crispy-skinned roast pork suddenly turned my thoughts to my late uncle, a Chinese restaurateur who died more than a decade ago.

It wasn't the best roast pork I'd ever had, but as I chewed on several morsels, I considered how my cousin is now the spitting image of his father. It's been at least a year since I'd thought of my uncle.

Food is such a powerful and evocative substance. I began considering what other dishes instantly bring to mind memories of people I know or places I've been.

A hot crepe smeared with chocolate transports me back to a little street vendor outside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Just the sight of the pillowy Filipino custard-and-meringue dessert brazo de Mercedes invokes my partner's gentle and sweet Aunt Florence.

An overflowing mound of spaghetti Bolognese makes me think of my younger sister and her sometimes hit, sometimes miss cooking attempts.

Buttery soft loaves of egg bread inevitably turn my thoughts to my mother, who used to say that making bread from scratch was a great stress-reliever (as she smacked huge dollops of dough against our kitchen table).

Which foods get you into a nostalgic mood?

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Comments

Jo

Vancouver

My mom's homemade tomato soup

Posted July 25, 2008 02:06 PM

BEN

Sunday dinner at my grandmother's house...

Posted July 26, 2008 11:43 AM

Dan

Malahat

My grandmother's tuna noodle casserole and salmon loaf, topped off with rhubarb pie.

Posted July 28, 2008 05:35 PM

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From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.

About the writers

Amber Hildebrandt Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.

Andrea Chiu Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.

Tara Kimura Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.

Andree Lau Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).

Jessica Wong Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.

Kevin Yarr Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.

Elizabeth Bridge Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.

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