Some college students miss home cooking because they cannot cook on their own. Some students miss home cooking because no matter what you eat, when you’re back in town, the food is always free. Then there are students who miss home cooking because of the memories that surround that food. Personally, I miss all three.
The smell of my grandma’s homemade cinnamon bread will always remind me of coming home with my five siblings, after a long day of middle school, and being able to enjoy the spring afternoon because I did not have hours of homework.
Nausea is one of my worst fears, and the smell of Little Caesar’s Pizza does it for me, never fails to reminds me of a series of unfortunate events in eighth grade. One glimpse of their pizza box, and I am out the door.
The human brain is such a fascinating place. Receptors receive and send hormones faster than we can imagine, controlling all functions of our bodies. When it comes to food, the hippocampus is the control room and dopamine the is driving force.
The hippocampus helps our brains associate specific smells with emotional memories. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is in charge of activating the brain’s reward center, and turning short terms memories into long-term memories.
When it comes to the associating smells with memories, the olfactory system, our noses’ sensory system, runs the show. Our nose and naval cavity have 12 million smell receptors, and 450 different types. Just think of how many smell receptors are involved in identifying homemade apple pie.
My roommate Hannah Glasgow links the smell of homemade Chex Mix to the holidays. The holidays remind me of prune Jell-O eggs… I would take her memory over mine any day. Her dad makes it every year, and no matter what season it is, the smell transports her to Christmas time – and it makes her miss being a kid.
While our brains remind us of positive food memories, they also warn us of taste aversions, foods that might make you sick. My roommate Ivy was able to get over her taste aversion, but it took a long time.
Ivy didn’t eat mac and cheese for seven years. When Ivy was five, she ordered mac and cheese at Cracker Barrel, and she regretted it even before she left the restaurant. This memory gave her an aversion to all types of mac and cheese, be it Kraft or her mother’s homemade recipe. I am happy to report that Ivy was reunited with the dish almost ten years ago.
Motivation is reinforced by memory, and inspired by rewards. My third roommate, Megan, uses a certain dipping sauce to remind her of simpler times.
She used to combine ketchup, Bar-B-Que sauce and honey, and dip chicken nuggets in it. She called it ‘ketch-q-ey.’
It does not matter if it is the smell of homemade Chex Mix, the thought of mac and cheese, or the sight of Little Caesar’s; food helps us relive memories of the past, and that’s another reason why we love it.
Basically, every college student just wants to be a kid again and cinnamon rolls, Chex Mix and ‘ketch-q-ey’ can help take us back and bring those childhood memories back to life.