Spaghetti sauce and other memories - Denny Scott editorial
I’m always amazed that, for creatures so reliant on vision, human memories can be tied so closely to smell and taste.
Whether it’s the smell of a favourite dessert recalling someone’s childhood or the smell of a significant other’s perfume harkening back to when the couple first met, smell has a powerful ability to cause humans to recollect the past.
One of the best examples I can remember is gingerbread. My grandmother, in Seaforth, had a plug-in air freshener in her kitchen that was shaped like a gingerbread man (or maybe I should say gingerbread person; I don’t want to discriminate) and loaded with the sweet smell of the baked dessert.
I don’t recall any gingerbread ever being baked in that kitchen, but the smell of gingerbread will always take me back to a time before my grandparents remodeled their kitchen and you could catch hints of gingerbread cookies the minute you stepped through the door.
My grandparents’ Florida vacation home had some kind of rubber windows in part of the house and they had a smell. Sometimes, some rubber things will give me a partial whiff of that smell and I’m reminded of watching U.S. television, eating U.S. cereals and crashing through the door when heavy rains forced me and my sister back indoors.
Not all odours bring back pleasant reminders, however. My mother always wore the same perfume to church on Sunday and, to this day, I can’t smell it without be transported back to the my early childhood.
Before I get into trouble here, there was nothing wrong with going to church and nothing wrong with the perfume. The unpleasant memory was the long, hot car rides from Goderich to Seaforth and back again on Sunday mornings. When I was younger that 25-minute drive seemed to be endless because I was particularly prone to motion sickness. I couldn’t read or play handheld video games. I had to stare out the window, trying not to sweat through my clothes.
To this day, briefly smelling that perfume reminds me of those seemingly long trips in our Sunday best, the same way gingerbread reminds me of my grandmother’s kitchen.
Taste is a similar thing. The taste and smell of apple pie will always remind me of family celebrations, again, at my grandmother’s house.
Recently, I discovered that one of the defining smells and tastes of my childhood has been discontinued: Kraft’s Bravo spaghetti sauce.
I’m not trying to sell anyone on how great the sauce is, I’m just saying that it was a staple of my childhood (and my teen years, and when I moved to school and started making my own spaghetti, and... well up until Kraft announced it was discontinuing it).
My wife Ashleigh could never understand why I was so dead set on using Bravo and, while I could explain why I think it’s great, I think I’d rather just tie this into the message: it was a smell and a taste from my childhood.
There is just something about the smell of Bravo spaghetti sauce with ground beef heating up on the stove that, even as an adult, puts a smile on my face.
It’s become even more important in recent years because it wasn’t just the smell and taste of my mother’s kitchen, but the smell and taste of home and home is an important notion.
Throughout countless all-nighters before exams or project deadlines, I would eat high-energy food to keep me awake and then, when all the work was done, I would put on a pot of spaghetti made with Bravo and the smell would remind me of home.
After a rough week of work where I’ve had to cover a half-dozen events after-hours and then work the weekend, I could look forward to a Sunday-night spaghetti and Bravo dinner.
We’re coming up on our vacation here at The Citizen, and, usually that starts with my editor Shawn and I grabbing a meal together to put a symbolic start on the week-and-a-half break. I usually would make spaghetti (made with, you guessed it, Bravo) that night.
Like I said, it’s not about the flavour being superior and it’s not about trying to hawk Bravo (though I’d gladly take a life-time supply to be a spokesperson), it’s about tradition.
Traditions like Bravo are what bring peace to a rough week or a long day. When everything gets turned upside down, there is something you can rely on to turn it right-side up again.
Unfortunately, as I stated, Kraft has discontinued the sauce. There are petitions to bring it back, empassioned pleas and this, my own explanation of what made it important, but in the end, it was likely a fiscally-
driven decision and one that’s not likely to change.
Fortunately for me, Mary Jane hasn’t had spaghetti yet, so I have a little time to figure out what our family’s very own spaghetti sauce will be and start planning to make it at the end of her rough days.
I guess that’s the good thing about traditions, it’s never too late to put your own spin on something that meant a lot throughout your life.