A Memory is Worth a Thousand Words

CrafTEA: April 2022


A picture is worth a thousand words. But a memory . . . a memory must be worth millions more.



How do you record your memories?


In April, we launched our first CrafTEA event, where we tackled this question. How could we record our memories? What are the rituals of daily life that create those memories? Why are those rituals tied to particular foods, people, and places? How can we even start to try to convey the significance of those memories to someone else?


We gathered around a long and thin wooden table with coffee or tea in hand. Everyone brought a recipe – and descriptions of the food and the story that went with it. A playful mix of family recipes and signature dishes, our group’s recipes all were different. Some came in pristine cookbooks, others in barely legible handwriting. Some came with pictures and many were decorated with ingredient stains to show how loved they were.


Recipes are materials that showcase our tastes and preferences, and more importantly can hold treasured memories.

Sitting down at that table for our event, I had a plan. Five minutes for introductions, fifteen for our warm-up activity, and at least half an hour for our main activity. But, life – er, community – finds a way.


Yes, I’d asked everyone to share a bit about the recipe they brought, but the stories and descriptions pursued the goal of trying to make others actually understand what the recipe meant. Because no one had really asked the question before. “What does this recipe mean to you? Why?”



We ended up swapping recipe stories for thirty minutes. Ten of us sat sharing what these recipes meant and how the food had impacted our lives. When we got to the main illustration activity, it looked different. Subjects that aren’t typically depicted in recipes suddenly became dominant features. Participants included people in their recipes, or the particular kitchen that a dish was made, they included sensory experiences like sound and touch, and they included the different ways that time unfurled in the recipe and the eating of it.


 

We all have these stories: of family and friends, comfort, accomplishment, and heritage. We all also have stories of discomfort, disgust, and shame. But how frequently do we stop to reflect on food and what it means to us?


Think about how the foods you eat have shaped you, informed your relationships, and helped you feel connected to others.


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