We’re looking for your food memories

I recently heard a wonderful edition of the BBC’s Food Programme that followed artist Sophie Herxheimer’s mission to gather food stories in and around Margate. As she listened, she’d draw the memory and give the storyteller a copy. Once the idea was sown, lots of food memories came flooding back (You can still see drawings on Pie Days and Holidays website).

What do I mean as a food memories. I don’t mean the ones where you say “oh that was the best meal of my life”. I mean the ones that instantly take you back to a time and place.

I wonder whether I gathered one recently, at the Clandestine Cake Club meeting in Edinburgh? Picture nearly 30 women sampling 20 or so delicious homemade cakes and chattering with people who up to that point had just been a Twitter name. I do hope so.

Feasting at the Clandestine Cake Club

Feasting at the Clandestine Cake Club

More likely, it’ll be something from your childhood. When I was at school we still had cooked from scratch school dinners. I remember little of the savoury dishes, but I know I that’s where I started a lifelong love of rice pudding (which was served with rosehip syrup). On the other hand my husband has complete loathing of rice pudding due to the way it was served at his school.

My Dad’s favourite food memory is his mother making Cornish pasties. As someone born and brought up in London that was a little surprising until I learnt that his grandmother has been born in Cornwall and had passed the dish onto her daughter.

A glass yogurt pot

Nice or nasty?

Memories also evoke the first time you tried something. Picture us on a school trip to France and being served some weird sour white stuff in glass jars. Disgust all round until someone added sugar. It was yogurt!

Ian Goodall from Appliances Online , who sell cookers‘s food memory is of celebrating his new found freedom with BBQ goodies ( a massive 1 and a ¼ racks of ribs and a chicken breast lathered in BBQ sauce) after 3 years as a student living on baked beans

So, to inspire you some lovely memories from Edinburgh Foody co-writer Caroline von Schmalensse and the lovely Ruth Clemens, the Pink Whisk @thepinkwhisk

Caroline: “When I was seven, we spent the summer in Menton on the French riviera. On Bastille day we were invited for dinner at a restaurant in the mountains. I don’t remember much of the meal – I don’t remember much about the summer other than it was warm and carefree – but I remember the first course: ravioli. I loved ravioli but the ravioli I had eaten came in tins: soggy pasta parcels filled with dodgy mince and surrounded by faintly tomato flavoured red sauce. This ravioli was completely different. The pasta was white and firm, there was no sauce except a little olive oil and the plump pillows were filled with fragrant herbs. It was ravioli like nothing I’ve had since and food like nothing I’d had up till then”.

Ruth: My Dad was a keen breadmaker. In the way of cooking and baking he did very little, but breadmaking was his Sunday afternoon treat. We would then have the pleasure of his freshly baked bread for our packed lunches at school on Monday. I remember sitting in my classroom one Monday, opening my lunch box and finding to my horror one bright green sandwich and one bright red sandwich. As a joke he had added red and green food colouring to his dough. I was mortified and although my friends thought it was hilarious I couldn’t bring myself to eat green or red sandwiches. There’s something in the brain that tells you it’s wrong – very rightly so! There was hell to pay when I caught up with him, and he never did it again.

Go on, share your memories, and pass the message on!

Check out more food memories in the comments see below

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About Bread Baker Danielle

Danielle founded Edinburgh Foody in 2010. Having qualified as a professional bread baker in France in 2014, she is now on a new adventure in Gloucestershire. Check out severnbites.com Look out for occasional posts for Edinburgh Foody


  1. Every winter when I was a kid my father would make potato candy, taffy and chocolate fudge. He would have all three kids “helping” him and it must have taken all day because we all got a turn and each felt like we’d really done the job.

    Once the candy was done he would plate it up and each of us would carry a small plate with one piece and take it to my mother. She’d gush and tell us how clever we were.

    THEN we got to eat them. I can’t eat a peppermint patty today without thinking of my father and what terrific dad he was.

  2. Susan McNaughton

    Bananas. Yup, bananas. Major food memory.

    My Dad was brought up during the second world war. He was only 7 when war broke out. So all through his childhood he didn’t ever have a banana. He says that sometimes as a treat, his mum used to make a dessert out of sweetened parsnips and tell him that they were bananas. All through his adult life he avoided eating parsnips.

    When we were children, one of the great delights of a Sunday morning breakfast was a bacon and banana omelette, made by Dad. He didn’t slice the bananas straight across, always cutting them alternately on the cross into little wedge-shaped slivers. I wonder if that was to make them appear to go further as they’d been denied him as a child?

    Those omelettes were good!

  3. Everytime I make rock buns I think of my grandparents my grandmother who taught me to make them and my grandfather who taught me the joy of eating them. I remember how gran always managed to guess just how much butter was needed and how I was always so impressed with this. When I am rubbing in the flour I hear myself asking my gran if its rubbed in enough and her always saying a bit more. Mixing the egg and milk with an old wartime fork with one of the tines broken. Most of all I remember my grandads mmm’s and these are the best rock buns in the world!

  4. We used to spend the summers at our family friend’s summer house on Cape Bretton Island, Nova Scotia. One year their dad thought it would be a good idea for us kids to watch the fisherman gut our fish supper….it was mackerel…one of the bloodiest fish ever. I will never forget him making us hand around the heart. Twenty years later, I love mackerel, but I’m always taken back to that day.

  5. I will always remember baking with my gran when I was young. She baked nearly every day and had books and books of handwritten recipes for sweet treats and savoury dishes too – a lot of them war-time recipes which were easy on the ration book.

    She would always get me to help – weighing out the ingredients, creaming the butter and sugar, turning the oven to the correct temperature (and then letting her know when the light went off indicating it was ready – a very important job for a little girl I thought!!).

    The smells in the kitchen were fantastic – scones, broths, pies, cakes, but my favourite was always her cherry madeira cake. Plain, golden and delicious. She taught me about coating the cherries in flour to stop them sinking – one of many little tips of hers I still use today.

  6. My food memory is a bit of strange one! I moved to London on my own when I was 16 and my dad came down from Scotland to visit me. He took me to a very posh restaurant and I insisted on having whitebait. I hate fish. He asked me if I was sure I wanted whitebait, did I know what whitebait actually was? With all the arrogance of a 16 year old who knows absolutely everything of course, I was adamant. So he ordered me the whitebait. When it arrived and all those little fish were staring up at me I burst into tears. Instead of being furious, and saying I told you so, he very calmly asked the waiter to take the bowl away and bring me some pasta. He didn’t really mention it again the whole meal. It is a fond food memory because it was so out of character for my dad to be so patient and instantly forgiving. I think it was probably his only insightful moment while I was teenager! Needless to say I have never, ever ordered whitebait again!

    • Lovely memory. We always joke on how the way whitebait is described changes depending on where you are “friture du lac” or “friture du golfe” etc!

  7. I love this story and so wonderful that you are living your dream (and working very hard I am sure)

  8. My mum had a bit of a complex about eggs so we never had them. When I was 6 I ran away from home with my friend Katie,bribed by the promise of her dress and escaping from my brothers insistence on watching Tarzan. An alarm was raised and many people joined the search for us. we were found some 4 miles away, long way for a couple of 6 year old girls. We were taken back to a neighbours house and she made us soft boiled eggs and toast soldiers. I can still see the really thick white toast slathered with butter and the golden runny yolk dripping down the side of the egg cup- delicious!

  9. Rabbit. Rabbit.
    The sight, smell and taste of rabbit takes me back to an early 1970’s stay on a cousin’s farm at the quaintly named Watergrasshill in Co. Cork.
    This was the highest arable farmland in the whole of Ireland (at the time anyway). Every morning and evening the cows were milked (now that’s another smell) and between times we walked the fields, inspected drainage works and visited neighbors.
    One such afternoon my cousin took a shotgun on our ramble and we had ourselves a couple of rabbits for supper that evening. Cooked as a simple stew they were delicious.
    I reckon rabbit is one of our great foods and it remains undiscovered largly due to our pet keeping habits and in part to myxomatosis and it’s legacy in our mindset. Shame as it’s lean, plentiful and versitile.

  10. I lived in the south of France during every holiday since I was very young. We always ate sourdough bread from the village bakery. As reached 11 or so years old every morning I would get up and run to the bakery to help bake the bread. It was simply magic – the smell of the first batch would waft through the pigeon holes in my attic my bedroom and at about 4am I would charge down the alleyway in the dark to a floury warm bakery where I would eat hot croissant and drink dark coffee with sweetened to make it bearable to my young palette. I worked in the bakery full time for a summer aged 17 and went on to work in another bakery a year later in the local town. As I got to about 19 years old I was busy at university and didn’t have the time to go to France for several years. I became poorly and it became clear that bread was upsetting me. I was told to avoid all bread and it worked, I felt much better.

    Just a few years ago I was back at the house. I woke to the smell of bread. It drew me like the pied pipers song to the bakery doors. It was irresistible and before I knew what I was doing I had been to the bakery and I was spreading butter over warm crusty sourdough and sinking my teeth in. Oh familiar joy! The crunch of the crust and the yield of the soft bouncy inner. Exquisite. I didn’t give a fig. There was me.. and the bread – and that was all there was to the world.

    I waited for the inevitable cramps, bloating lethargy and illness to follow. There was nothing. No illness. Joy !! I shan’t tell you how many loaves of bread I consumed that holiday. But I sure you can imagine I had quite some catching up to do after almost 12 years of not eating bread!

    Strangely I still cannot eat commercial bread. It still has the same effect. But real sourdough I can and do eat.

    hope you enjoy the story!

  11. When I was a child, my family and I would get in our station wagon and head from California to Idaho to visit my grandparents. My grandmother was a great country cook. I loved her homemade chicken noodles and dumplings! I remember watching her make the noodles from scratch. The flavor was so delicious! I have never tasted any other noodles like grandma’s since. Watching and helping grandma in the kitchen was one of my favorite memories of her.

  12. Does it count as a food memory if you didn’t actually eat it? In 1994 I was working in Lesotho as a Fulbright scholar, and one of my research projects concerned the mopane caterpillar harvest in Botswana, where men, women, and children all participate in the harvest and cooking of these exquisite creatures (see this link: http://lodges.safari.co.za/African_Travel_Articles-travel/mopane-worms.html ). For generations the caterpillars have been a seasonal treat, and families only harvested what they could eat. However recently South African farmers had been buying them by the kilo as a cheap protein supplement to cattle feed. This has led to greed and over-harvesting, and it was threatening the survival of the moth. The elder village women were campaigning to stop the over-harvesting, and I was documenting their effort. I am a vegetarian and had been a vegetarian long before I lived in southern Africa, but during the filming of the video, the kind women insisted I learn to cook them–if not for myself, for others, as was their custom. These are the instructions: choose the longest and fattest ones you can find. Gut them using a thumbnail and a quick sling of the wrist that completely empties their wet insides. Leave the head on. Gather them until you have a full bucket. Then prepare a black iron pot over a wood fire. Add salt. When the salt is jumping, add the caterpillars and stir constantly until they are crispy. They should be light, completely dry, and crunchy, but they shouldn’t be cooked till they crumble. Let them hold their shape. I’m told they are delicious and taste a bit like peanuts.

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