Venice: The feel of crusty bread against my fingertips. The ruby red of the wine in my wine glass. The sheen on the well-worn cobblestones. The barely audible words exchanged by lovers. The slant of the afternoon light as it found its way between the terra cotta rooftops. The sound of the water gently teasing the algae-slick sides of the canal…
Though I take pleasure in the beautifully shot food photographs styled by professionals that pop up in my Instagram feed, I have never understood the habit of sharing photos of one’s food. The images are often blighted by flash and fall short in conveying flavor.
I believe it is the flavor of food—no matter how simple or grand—that has the power to cast the sensory detail of a meal in your ‘mind’s eye‘ long after the meal has ended.
Whether it truly is the flavor or a combination of all the senses, my most vivid mind’s eye experiences center on a meal and, more specifically, a meal I’ve eaten while traveling. The most detailed transports me to an outside table at a small trattoria along an out of the way canal in Venice.
Mind’s eye experiences – also known by the term Phantasia—represent the links between vision, perception, and memory. Well documented across the globe, scientists have observed variations in what areas of the brain are stimulated by our inner cameras.
While some study participants can only recall visual scenes, others are able to call forth sound, reporting their ability to hear a song in their mind. Some can do both. My mind’s eye experiences have included flavor, as well as sound and touch.
A late afternoon lunch of a flavorful minestrone accompanied by a basket of crusty bread and a carafe of house red was very simple, yet the memory of it is so evocative.
I not only recall the feel of the bread against my fingertips, the rich flavor of the broth, and the ruby red of the wine glowing in the wine glass, I also remember what was happening around me in incredible detail:
The sheen on the well-worn cobblestones and the sound of footsteps passing over them. The barely audible words exchanged by lovers strolling by—their arms entwined. The slant of the afternoon light as it found its way between the terra cotta rooftops. The fuzzy haloes surrounding the heads of people as they passed through one shaft of sunlight to the next. The brilliant red of a miniskirt worn by a model with a curtain of inky black hair being photographed nearby. And, lastly, the sound of the jade green water as it teased the algae-slick sides of the canal located just a few steps away.
While not everyone possesses the ability to recall memories captured in mind’s eye, it seems Charles Darwin, our man on natural selection, was aware of phantasia, hinting at it in one of his journals. When asked if he could recall what items were on his breakfast table one morning, he wrote, “They were as distinct as if I had photos before me.”
If you’re one of the lucky ones and have a vivid food-inspired mind’s eye journey related to your travels, we’d love to hear.
Did you know?
Served across Italy for centuries, minestrone is a vegetable soup that varies by what’s in season. Minestrone served during summertime may feature green beans, basil, tomatoes, fresh herbs, and zucchini—all simmered in a broth made of water, tiny pancetta cubes, & a soffritto of onions, carrots, and celery.
Winter minestrone might feature a mix of collard greens, broccoli, pumpkin, and savoy cabbage. No matter the time of year, this popular soup may also include beans (Borlotti, kidney, navy, cannellini, or fava), pasta and/or rice (or a combination of all three), and a Parmesan rind.
Whether taken as a primo (appetizer) or as a secondo (main course), a bowl of hearty minestrone is incredibly satisfying, especially with some crusty bread and a glass of house red.
Join Tammy next spring as she partners with American cookbook author Pamela Sheldon Johns of Italian Food Artisans to present: La Dolce Vita: Flowers & Food in Tuscany. Curious? Follow the link to learn more – we’d love to share our combined passions for flowers and food with you!