Is it just me or do certain things you eat and smell evoke memories of your childhood or youth? Tonight we had malt bread. I can’t remember the last time we’d had it; it wasn’t 25 years ago or anything like as long but instantly it reminds me of being at home as a kid. Memories of what, 45 years ago? My father Bob was a breadman, a humble job you’d think but he was the best breadman in Blackpool at a time when every home, hotel and boarding house servicing some 10m people a year served or used bread and butter for every meal in the day. He was the man. He’d sell 3 big van-loads of bread a day when most guys would struggle to do one full van-load. In the bakery where he worked he was revered. I know because from the age of 15 I was working inside the plant during school vacations. I was always introduced as Bob’s lad and accorded special attention whilst I was always told in a second breath that I had an unenviable job to live up to his reputation. I never felt anything but pride at that.
But where’s this ramble going? The point about Bob was that every night he’d bring home the shopping from his rounds – he know the best butchers, groceries etc where he’d do his deals plus of course he bring home stuff from the bakery. We weren’t poor but we were a working class family. However the evening meal was always taken seriously in my home. We’d always eat as a family at the dining room table – never, ever in front of the TV. We’d always have main course, often ‘starters’ and/or bread &b (of course) plus ‘afters’. This was invariably cake or something sweet from the bakery but always something different every night. Malt bread was a regular treat but it could be battenburg cake, eccles or chorley cakes, eclairs, custard slices etc. I can’t eat any of them now without evoking memories of the evening meal, with Bob telling us about his day, mum hers, then inviting us to recount our daily experiences. If the conversation was slow Bob would throw in a hand grenade of a thought about education or health care or politics. He was a trade unionist and a mild socialist but would graciously defer to mum’s pragmatic conservatism over contentious issues. But we had to argue a case; he’d never preach but he’d expect an opinion.
I loved the meal time atmosphere and it was not dissimilar with our own family. But how can something as simple as opening a packet of malt bread make me reminisce like this. The smell of baking bread releases hundreds of memories of those days in the bakery. I love that smell. I was with my daughter and her family these last few days and the smell of my new baby grandson makes me think of our girls when they were his age. It’s something deep within my psyche which must being triggered. The taste of jelly and carnation milk (which I haven’t had in decades), the smell of haymaking/new mown grass, the taste of my nan’s apple pies, the smell of wintergreen in changing rooms – these are all sensations I’m now remembering as my sense memories have been stimulated by this writing.
Is this a personal thing or do you get similar sensations from time to time? Keep it clean folks…