The Ghost Of A Flavor
It was National Cheesecake Day, but that wasn't why I purchased a slice of strawberry cheesecake at Incredibly Delicious. Originally I just thought it was the simple power of suggestion, since the person ahead of me ordered a slice, and the pale pink of the cheesecake, under a white, frothy, layer did look appealing. Of course, all desserts at Incredibly Delicious are a excellent bet at being very good. So I bought a slice to go with my lunch.
And I will admit that somewhere in the back of my mind I did think this a touch odd. While I have nothing against cheesecake it has never been my first choice for dessert. Normally, if I get dessert it will be a fresh fruit tart, or a chocolate, and cherry, cookie. Yet, even as I ate a tasty lunch that slice of strawberry cheese cake beckoned.
The first bite (and all later ones) were perfection - chilled strawberry melting quickly on the tongue, with the graham cracker crust the finale of the taste, and as I ate I remembered a Sara Lee chilled pie that my family loved. I think it was for one year, or more, that my mother made sure to buy a couple - one for that week, and one to keep frozen. While I will grant it was made with lesser ingredients than Incredibly Delicious's cake, my family and I didn't care at that time. For one - the bistro hadn't yet been dreamed of. All we knew was that the chilled strawberry cheesecake melted swiftly on the tongue, and the graham cracker crust was the perfect finale. As to why we stopped buying them, I don't remember, though maybe Sara Lee stopped making the cake, or we found a new favorite.
None of which matters.
It is the ghost of that flavor that does, particularly for a storyteller (be they performer or writer).
Amongst those who study story it has been known for a long time that when you tell a story, and invoke the senses, that the story you know, born of your memories, is a different story than what your audience hears as your words awaken personal memories.
However, I have never had such a simple, but powerful, experience that so proved the point with me.
What process brought me to eat that slice of strawberry cheesecake?
I would have to say that it was first having my attention called to the presence of strawberry cheesecake, and when I was mindful of it, then the pale pink of the filling lightly stirred the ghost of a memory. Yet not so much that I was aware how it was impacting my decision.
And the fact that the slice of cake kept calling my attention back during lunch hadn't yet awakened the full memory. Finally the texture and taste revealed the memory that was stirring - a memory of a simple, family, thing, so long forgotten, but suddenly, achingly, important.
What does this say for the memories invoked by storytelling? Do they stir in our audiences' minds, teasing, but not yet fully realized until a later trigger finishes the awakening? Or do they simply haunt the edges of memory?
I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.