Isn’t it amazing how the smell or taste of food can transport us back in our memories to a specific place or time?
For example, my siblings and I used to go to a drive-in restaurant with our dad after day camp in the summertime and he’d let us get a dipped ice cream cone and a large order of crinkle French fries. I can’t have a dipped cone without thinking about that time in my life.
Whenever I went to my grandma’s house it always smelled like home cooking. Now when I make a pot roast or a baked turkey, the smell of that food takes me back to holidays at Grandma’s, and it makes me smile.
I’ve recognized that sensory memories play an integral part in my children’s development as well as their relationship with food.
Are they going to be picky about certain things? Of course! But it’s those moments which we can tie food to a positive experience or feeling that can last a lifetime. Sometimes they happen by coincidence and some we build over time.
With my kids, we have traditions and then also some favorite meals that I’m hoping will stick in their memories as they get older. They know that when we go up to Dubuque in the summertime, we’ll go on the Fourth Street Elevator. When we come back down, they get to have ice cream at that little shop at the bottom of the hill.
Creative plating of food also excites them, like creating meatloaf cupcakes by baking meatloaf in a cupcake pan and topping each one with mashed potatoes and a dollop of ketchup! Christmas Eve memories are filled with decorating cookies for Santa and making gingerbread houses. Christmas morning means the kids get to enjoy Santa pancakes topped with fruit, whipped cream and chocolate chips to create a beard, eyes and his hat.
One of our memorable traditions involves jelly beans; every Easter (or as close to it as we can get), each child gets to “plant” a jelly bean in a small pot filled with soil and in the morning, just like magic, a colorful lollipop has grown!
They love it when we make sack lunches for road trips and they get to eat them in the van, discovering what goodies they’ll find under the apple slices and PB&J sandwiches.
We have an annual watermelon eating contest where I simply cut up large slices of seedless watermelon and let them get as messy as possible in their swimsuits and then they excitedly run to whatever pool or sprinkler we have set up in the yard to clean off, promptly asking for a snack afterwards.
Since moving to Cedar Rapids, I’ve noticed how the kids have associated food memories with different places and restaurants around the area.
Their favorite fried chicken is at Pizza Ranch and we can’t drive by without them commenting on how they love to eat tons of chicken legs when they go there and then get a big plate of ice cream for dessert.
When we go to the Noelridge Splash Pad they want to get popsicles from the ice cream truck that rolls through the parking lot on a hot day.
They remember the picnic we had at Bever Park and how we went over to Old MacDonald’s zoo afterwards to see the animals.
They know that if I am picking them up for lunch with Mommy that we’ll probably go to the Subway by Kirkwood College and sit in the same booth.
And if we go to Red Robin and don’t order the Mississippi Mud Pie for dessert to share, we might as well not go at all!
As they get older, they may not want to do all the little things with me that involve food, but I hope we can develop new memories.
This summer we hope to plant some fruits and veggies that they’ll get to harvest and even get to go pick strawberries at a U-pick location. Perhaps in their teen years they will talk to me at the table as we sip on hot chocolate together late at night.
In the end, it doesn’t have to be a ton of work or money to connect food to positive memories; the children seem to best recall the positivity and the food item itself. Whether its a one-time experience or something more traditional, enjoy yourself, don’t overdo it and see how it plays out!
What are some of your favorite food memories that you’ve developed with your kids? Is there anywhere in the Cedar Rapids area that you’d recommend to make some new memories that go with food?
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