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#MicroblogMondays 151: Chasing the Taste

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We had the most incredible passionfruit vinaigrette on our honeymoon.  The waiter went back into the kitchen and returned with the recipe, minus amounts.  I tried to recreate the salad dressing a few times, but it never came close to that vinaigrette.  I still think about it as one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.

Apparently, that’s science.

There is a reason why you think food tastes better on vacation, and why so many of the tastes you “chase” (as in, try to recreate or wish you could have them again) come from vacations.  New York magazine explains:

The obvious answer is context: new place, new things. But context also works in other, more surprising ways to make our sense of taste into the fluid, location-dependent thing that it is.

Think about the foods you still think about long after the meal and remove all the emotionally-based ones such as your mother’s chicken.  How many of the ones that are left came from a local restaurant or friend’s house, and how many came from your travels or a vacation?


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1. Mali (A Separate Life) 10. A Focused Journey 19. Loribeth (The Road Less Travelled)
2. Mali (No Kidding) 11. Risa Kerslake 20. Journeywoman
3. Am I Enough | Nabanita 12. Isabelle 21. Failing at Haiku
4. Daryl 13. Raven 22. Jewish IVF
5. Cathy@ Still Waters 14. Karen (River Run Dry) 23. Chandra Lynn (Pics and Posts)
6. Turia 15. rennata 24. Middle Girl
7. Circle of Daydreams 16. Chandni Moudgil 25. Jessie
8. Traci York, Writer 17. Lori@ Laughing IS Conceivable2 26. Stephanie (Travelcraft Journal)
9. Lori Lavender Luz 18. Lori@ Laughing IS Conceivable  


1 Mali { 07.17.17 at 5:57 am }

Ooh, I’ll have to read that article. Yes, even though I can recreate the dishes we had at a little trattoria in Vittorio Veneto, they never taste quite the same.

2 Nabanita { 07.17.17 at 5:59 am }

I think it’s true for every aspect. Now that I think about my hometown having left it years ago, I only think about the best things. All the bad memories iron out and I guess it’s the same with food.

3 Daryl { 07.17.17 at 6:06 am }

Hmm…I suppose, of all the experiences from travels you could attempt to recreate at home, food would be the most feasible. But it totally makes sense that everything else that contributed to the original dining experience would influence your perception of how it tasted. The only thing I’ve sort of been able to recreate is shawarma, but that was based on a recipe in an Israeli cookbook, and the method was nowhere near the real thing!

4 Turia { 07.17.17 at 7:47 am }

I think for me the memory of the food is tied up in the experience, so it makes sense that my most vivid memories of food would be associated with being on vacation somewhere different (especially if there is a spectacular setting).

I will say I still have cravings for some of the meals I used to eat in restaurants where I did my undergraduate degree. And one was just an egg salad sandwich from the coffee shop inside the bookstore! It was the best egg salad. I still think about it.

5 Traci York { 07.17.17 at 8:47 am }

Love the phrase, “chase the taste” – hadn’t heard it phrased in quite that way before. It makes sense too, but strangely enough, the tastes that immediately came to mind are from two local restaurants in the town where I grew up – pizza, and the best chili con casa sauce I’ve ever had (not for the same meal).

6 Risa Kerslake { 07.17.17 at 10:01 am }

You’re right. All the best foods have come from when we were on vacation. I think of all the places we ate at in our travels and those are the ones we still talk about years later.

7 Lori Lavender Luz { 07.17.17 at 11:04 am }

This explains so much.

I’ve been wanting to make Irish Stew ever since I discovered it while in Ireland. Now I know not to be too disappointed if it doesn’t live up to my memories.

8 Karen { 07.17.17 at 11:20 am }

(I tried to go read the article but stopped with the worms and bugs on the burger. EWWWWWWWW. I’ll take their word for it!)

One of the best meals of my life was in Italy, after a frustrating day of trying to find clothing (because of a luggage handler strike) and schlepping around in 90 degree weather in the worst outfit ever (but hey, it fit). We had dinner at a tiny place near the Spanish Stairs and I had the best truffle risotto I’ve ever had, with a bottle of white wine that was also amazing. I have not had risotto that comes close to that dinner since, and it was more than a decade ago.

9 torthuil { 07.17.17 at 1:14 pm }

Hmmmm. I think one of the best things I’ve ever tasted were plum pies I made years ago one summer. I had plums I thought would go bad so I made the pies on impulse. They were so delicious, fresh out of the oven. I tried making plum pie other times but was not the same.

Once at a restaurant I had a roast duck that was so good, I wanted to go down on my knees and thank God I was born a human and could eat this stuff. Seriously, almost a spiritual epiphany.

But those experiences are pretty unusual. I like food but don’t usually react to it that way.

The other thing that always tasted unbelievably good are those tiny wild strawberries you sometimes find in the grass. If you ever see people by the side of the road with their bums in the air, that’s probably what they are after.

I’m going to make butterscotch squares in celebration of our wedding anniversary today. Don’t know if they will be that memorable but at least enjoyable.

10 Chandni { 07.17.17 at 2:25 pm }

How interesting Mel, I drop by to post a link to some thing I wrote that’s about nostalgia and music .. and I read something about food and how we experience it.
well both are sensory and very personal ..

11 Lori Shandle-Fox { 07.17.17 at 2:44 pm }

We don’t eat anywhere but home much. When New Yorkers move to where I live now, we all lament missing the great food. Our immediate area in NC is all chain restaurants that taste like everything went straight from a freezer and into the microwave. So when my husband and I found a place in North Raleigh with seasonal salads, we couldn’t stop talking about it. We’ll be up there this week. I never thought I could be so excited about a salad. Every time we eat there we think: “This tastes so fresh and so good. What have we been eating all this time?” It’s like the soul comes back into our taste buds.

12 loribeth { 07.17.17 at 3:12 pm }

Hmmm, I can believe this. I am still thinking about the amazing maple cinnamon brioche French toast that we had for breakfast in Niagara on our anniversary getaway two weekends ago. Of course, I think having someone else do the cooking & cleaning up adds to the allure, lol.

13 Journeywoman { 07.17.17 at 4:47 pm }

It is also the memory of the place and the chef. I will explain.

No matter what I tried I couldn’t make my “birthday cake” recipe taste like my mom’s. I tried and I got the icing to taste better, but the cake still wasn’t as good.

When my mom passed, I took possession of her 8 inch cake pans. Then I made the cake for my daughter’s birthday and I just figured, “Hey now I have a bunch of cake pans, I might as well double the recipe. Mom always did.”

Well hell and high water came and that doubled cake recipe tasted exactly like mom’s cake. I was told this by my sister and my father. My sister actually closed her eyes while eating her piece of cake and when she opened them she had tears in her eyes. “It’s mommy’s cake!” she said. I nodded. It was mom’s cake.

14 Jivf { 07.17.17 at 9:30 pm }

Food always tastes better when someone else is setting up and doing the dishes 🙂

15 Chandra Lynn { 07.17.17 at 9:56 pm }

I miss the unique foods of New Orleans. When we go home, we always try to eat as much as we can. Gainesville, Florida also holds fond memories for my tongue. For a small town, it is super vegetarian friendly, and I miss lots of the yummy things that got me through my degrees.

16 Middle Girl { 07.17.17 at 10:59 pm }

I always try to find something I haven’t had before, be it a dish or an ingredient (or set of ingredients). Sometimes the experiment is successful (fried pickles) and sometimes not (goat). Vacations (or in my case, staycations) are tailor made for that sort of thing. 🙂

17 Working mom of 2 { 07.18.17 at 12:25 am }

I guess I’m in the minority here. I don’t really have any good traveling eating experiences, other than eating at the Chicago Diner when I was there for a conference. And that was just plain an excellent vegan meal and an excellent vegan restaurant that really had nothing to do with the fact that I was there traveling. Usually my vacation eating experiences are disappointing. Back in the day, yes I am old, we used to use guidebooks and frequently we would spend all this time deciding on a certain restaurant to go to and inevitably we would turn the corner and find the building is for lease or something. Or closed on Mondays – – the one day we were there–or something.

18 Jessie { 07.18.17 at 1:07 am }

Ahi poke nachos during my first honeymoon, on Kauai

19 Stephanie (Travelcraft Journal) { 07.18.17 at 2:39 am }

I’m not sure if it’s the same study, but I read one where people reported food tasting better even if a *recording* of beach sounds played while they ate (!)

I do think there’s a lot tied in with memory and expectation (wanting for everything to be great). Also, when we travel we tend to be paying more attention.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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