Have you ever walked past a bakery and it instantly brought you back to that time you were in Paris? Or maybe you were walking by a deli and that classic BEC, SPK smell reminded you of 6:30 am before high school. Whether you can relate to these specific examples or not, you have likely have a food which upon smelling, takes you back in time to memories of family and home. For this article, I asked 3 people of different familial and cultural backgrounds what these nostalgic foods are, for them, that bring about fond memories? If you’re reading this, one of these following meals may bring to you that same feeling… or, it may just make you really hungry.

The first person I asked was a friend of mine, who comes from an Irish family. The recipe that reminded her most of home is Irish bacon and cabbage. She mentioned that the simplicity of this dish is what truly makes it great. There’s no need to include anything fancy or special to make it wonderful, just a stove and a few simple ingredients. She also mentioned that one of her favorite things is to notice how different family members' bacon and cabbage dishes, while cooked with the same ingredients, all taste slightly different from each other's. each of their individual styles play a surprisingly big role in the outcome of the dish! This friend of mine says it’s not often that they bring this Irish dish into the kitchen of their Brooklyn home, but when they do, they have to drive to one specific deli in Queens, known as Butcher Block, which sells Irish meat, as well as other Irish sodas, candy, and more. Access to these Irish treats, otherwise pretty impossible to find in the average American store, remind her of Ireland and her family even more.

The next person I asked was my own mother, who grew up in a southern home, located in Louisiana. The meal that reminds her of home is “Hoppin John”, otherwise known as black-eyed-peas and rice. She claims to remember always eating this meal, paired with collard greens, with her mother on new years day to bring good luck and fortune for the year ahead. The funny thing is, however, her mother insists this was never really a tradition in their family, so while it is typically a southern tradition, to my mom this recipe is more of a personal representation of the home she made for herself after leaving Louisiana.

 Lastly, I asked another friend of mine, who comes from a Mexican-American family. A meal that brings back family memories for him is a traditional Mexican stew, known as Pozole. A one-pot meal, Pozole is intricately prepared and has an abundance of delicious flavor. The process of preparing Pozole is pretty time-consuming as well; my friend recalls many days of sitting in the kitchen with his sister helping his mother, removing the skins of each individual corn kernel, while having happy conversation. He filled me more in on the details of what this meal means to him, letting me know that this is the meal that is always cooked and enjoyed at family events, like birthdays, parties or holidays. He also mentioned that even when he dives into this dish without the whole family present, he’s just as satisfied, as it serves as a reminder of all of the times this delicious meal has brought his family together. 

So, maybe you grew up in an Irish, Southern American, or Mexican household, and one of these meals brought back some tasty, lighthearted memories for you. Or maybe you didn’t, and another meal came to mind upon reading this. Either way, it’s important to recognize the power of food, and the effect it has on all of us, in ways beyond just delicious flavor. In many instances, meals with family bring us closer to those we hold closest to our hearts. Food can heal us emotionally and physically, especially if it is prepared by people we love, or by us for them to show how much we care. Food is a celebration and a form of expression and diving into the cultural connections that different dishes have, we can learn endlessly more about the rich diversity of the people and world around us.