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Oct 5, 2006 04:44 AM

What is your madeleine?

I read a piece by Nora Ephron about her adult quest for the version of cabbage streudel she had as a child, the taste of which remained vivid, evocative and unmatched by anything she'd tasted since. My Proustian trigger is the salted fish/diced pork dish served over mushy rice that my mother made--homely food full of flavor and memory. What is your madeleine?

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  1. I'm half Filipino, and at age 3 or 4, my mother would scoop up a mound of steamed rice and crown it with a sunnyside-up egg, then proceed to fork-chop the egg into the rice for me. By age 5, she'd tell me to do the mixing of egg and rice myself, which never tasted as good :-(. 40 years leater, the taste and texture of fried eggs and steamed rice revives all those old primal longings for parental security and comfort. As a matter of fact, I think a broken egg is particularly an apt symbol of relinquished childhood:
    " Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
    All the king's horses and all the king's men,
    Couldn't put Humpty together again "

    1. I had a lousy childhood accompanied by lousy food, so I don't want a personal Madeleine.


      1. My mother's tza-chiang mien garnished with diced cucumbers and slightly steamed bean sprouts.

        1. I don't think the memory evoked should need to be a)positive or b)from childhood. Though the notion of the "bad Madeleine" probably doesn't get much play since who in the world would seek out food that tastes bad and/or conjures bad memories? Different foods still have a sort of memorial power,like it or not, so I'm not sure it's something one can choose not to have any more than it's something we can choose to cultivate. I suppose you can decide not to trigger it by avoiding foods that take you back. Lumpy Cream of Wheat with brown sugar would be one for me (a happy Madeleine); and, from later in life, Lebanon bologna sandwiches with butter (bittersweet Madeleine); and from even later Annie's Mac and Cheese (bad Madeleine).

          1. I grew up in upstate NY and all pizza is judged against the standard of my small town. Its form,I've since heard referred to as Sicilian but to me..that's pizza. A thick crispy crust with spiced sauce and hunks of tomato and very little cheese, melting into the dough and sauce. It was delivered to our home in the metal pan in which it was baked and the edges were always perfectly crusty just short of burnt. I always hid a slice to eat cold early in the morning.