Whenever I order a Sex on the Beach (that’s a cocktail to all you folks that didn’t know and assumed that I am in the habit of doing the deed in an awkward and public location) I am instantly transported back to the summer after I finished Sixth Form when I went on a girls holiday to Magaluf, Mallorca in Spain. Magaluf is one of the party capitals of Europe, and is a notoriously messy place to stay, and all the bars offer the classic cocktail at ridiculously cheap prices and in ridiculously large quantities (we’re talking entire fish bowls of the stuff). For this reason, I’m pretty sure my bloodstream was 50% Sex on the Beach for the week, and as such it’s a very nostalgic drink for me.
In the same way, whenever I eat scrambled eggs I am reminded of the first summer that I housesat for my grandparents. It was before I went to university and was the first real time I had stayed by myself in a house and had to cook for myself every day. My sister had recently taught me how to make scrambled eggs in the microwave (a revelation!) and I liked them that much (and they were that quick and easy) that I had them for lunch and dinner for about four days in a row. Now, I can’t eat scrambled eggs without feeling a bit sick – I’m pretty sure I’ve met my scrambled eggs quota for the next ten years – and without thinking about sitting in my grandparents’ kitchen with a dog sat at my feet.
When we think about making memories, it’s activities and special moments that spring to mind. We also remember the things we eat if they are pleasing to our taste buds, and especially if they are particularly offensive! But we never realise until it happens that tasting certain foods can remind us of a moment in time no matter how significant or mundane that moment may be.
It goes without saying that one of these moments, brought back by a certain food, is what has made me to write this post. Not really a moment, rather a period in time, it’s not something I’ve ever spoken about on my blog. My mental health and the issues I have had with it is not really a topic that I speak openly about online for the sheer fact that I know that my close family and friends read my blog and I don’t know how they would react to hearing about it. But seeing other people speaking about it so openly is helping to end the stigma against mental health issues, so I guess now more than ever is a good time to add my two cents and hopefully contribute to the movement.
During my year abroad, while I was living in Spain, I had a fab time. I travelled most weekends and tried so many new foods and made new friends. But in between those periods of travel I shut myself away in my room in my cold little flat that I shared with three Spanish girls, and I wallowed. I was depressed, something I still feel very strange saying so outright. Everything had been rosy until the end of October, when an incident, for which I was not to blame in the slightest, happened which caused one of my flatmates, a girl I had felt very close to and considered my best friend in Spain, to turn cold towards me, pull away from me, and blame me for said incident. I was upset and angry, and alone. Before the incident, her friends were my friends and we had enjoyed going out, having BBQs and playing Cards Against Humanity in our flat over homemade pizza (FYI: the Spanish sense of humour differs greatly to the English!). But then she just wasn’t there, and as thus I lost both her and my entire friendship group. I was so alone. I wanted to go home, I wanted to be anywhere else. So I travelled. But when I was at home I was in bed, not going to classes, not leaving the flat to even get groceries. I would go four days without showering because I just didn’t want to leave my bedroom.
At Christmas, one of my other flatmates was selling mantecados, a crumbly Spanish biscuit vaguely comparable to, but not quite the same as, shortbread, to raise money for a trip to celebrate the end of her degree. I bought two large selection boxes from her to put together biscuit parcels for my family members as Christmas presents. These boxes were huge, and there were a lot left over, so while I laid in my bed in the same jumper I had been wearing for a week straight, I would eat these mantecados because it meant I didn’t have to leave my room to get food.
On Monday at work, one of my colleagues came back from a holiday in Gran Canaria, and with her she brought a gift of mantecados for the office. I was nicely surprised – I hadn’t had mantecados in almost two years! But I had a couple of small bites of one and couldn’t eat any more. It tasted really nice, but it left a funny feeling behind, and that’s when I remembered that I had eaten my weight in them (not quite) to avoid the figurative coldness of my flat and flatmate. I really wanted to be able to eat it, but the nothing-y period of my life that it reminded me of stopped me from eating any more, and I had to give the rest to a colleague.
Just so you know, my mental health is tiptop right now, so there is nothing to worry about. Besides a brief period of depression and anxiety during my final year, induced by the stresses of money (or lack thereof) and dissertation woes, I have been absolutely fine, and right now I’m the best I’ve ever been! I just found it fascinating quite how much a food can remind you of something, and how a period of your life can prevent you from enjoying a particular food ever again. But to end this post on a high, I want to list a few of the foods and drinks that I associate with the best memories!
French onion soup – This makes me think of all the times I spent in the little bistros in the Latin Quarter of Paris, eating with my friends and family, but most memorably when I ate it for the first time ever after a walk along the Seine with my friend Emily, and I fell in love with the stuff!
Vodka and orange juice – Oh to be a fresher again! Vodka orange was my drink of choice at the end of my first year at university, and it’s what I drank for pre-drinks before the end of year bar crawl. While I may have (read: definitely) drunk too much of the stuff that night resulting in my first ever bout of alcohol-induced sickness, I had a really fun night and a lot of laughs, so vodka orange hold good memories for me!
Korean Cider – Korean Cider isn’t actually cider, but a non-alcoholic soft drink similar to Mountain Dew, and it is glorious. It’s lightly flavoured and is perfect to mix with alcohol, particularly soju, a rice liquor widely consumed in South Korea. It’s also great to cure hangover sickness, something I experienced on a coach to the Demilitarised Zone after a night of heavy drinking with my summer school friends. I bought a bottle of Cider to settle my stomach and tried (and failed) to eat some rice and bulgogi before heading off to get a glimpse of North Korea and see the tunnels built by the North to infiltrate the South. So many memories!