Food Memories

By Wade Truong / Elevated Wild

Why does this taste so damn good?

Food has a unique and powerful way of recalling memories. Not just the time and place, but the emotions felt. It's a side effect of taste that we often overlook.

Food tastes better when we are happy. Some foods have the ability to remind us of better times, humor and even tragedy. The association of memory and foods is personal and incredibly powerful. It's the reason food tastes sour when you're in a bad mood. It's the reason I love chicken bouillon-based soups when I feel beat up and worn out. The comfort of my mother, bringing me warmed up condensed soup when I was sick. Condensed soup is objectively not good, but the emotions tied to the smell and taste of that soup aren’t objective, they’re subjective and very real. 

"Condensed soup is objectively not good, but the emotions tied to the smell and taste of that soup aren’t objective - they’re subjective and very real."

For the last few years, Rachel and I have eaten wild game almost exclusively, and we have never eaten better. Coming from restaurant backgrounds, we both drank and ate well outside of our pay grade for years, but we both agree that the food we eat now tastes better than anything we used to eat. To be fair, there is no wild game substitute for A5 wagyu, but there is no substitute for emotional ties either. Every meal we eat has some story associated with it. It's time stamped - a season, a place, a story. Mallards remind us of being bone cold, fingers so numb we can barely get shells into the magazine. We can hear the sound of wings working over the blind when we eat goose. I can feel the smooth weight of the antlers whenever I taste our venison salami. Baying beagles pair with rabbits, the buzz of thousands of migrating dragonflies over sunflowers while we eat grilled doves. Bar codes, best by dates, and price tags aren't the same. 

Grapes starved of water make the best wine. And by that principal, the best meals are more often than not the ones that were difficult to come by. Hard hunts, sparse foraging, scattered fish - they compound the emotions, amplify the flavors. Turkey hunting exemplifies these characteristics. The birds are unpredictable, and so is the weather. Sometimes we’re in the wrong place, but more often than not, the birds just have better plans. The days are long, the weather shifts from freezing to hot, and the mosquitos, despite our best efforts, always get their meal. But being in the woods in spring, as life wakes up from its cold nap, watching buds turn to blossoms, and hearing the thundering of gobbles across creek bottoms adds flavor to the memories. 

"The best meals are more often than not the ones that were difficult to come by - hard hunts, sparse foraging, scattered fish - they compound the emotions, amplify the flavors."

When strutting birds finally give us a shot, it punctuates the end of a pursuit and the beginning of another story. We try to use as many local ingredients as possible to capture as much of the time and place as we can. The garlic chives we use grow feral along the edge of the barn, the garlic hangs from the rafters all fall to cure. The fennel seed is gathered along the woods edge at the end of winter. 

This turkey sausage will taste better to Rachel and I than anyone else. It’ll taste like spring rain, the hair-raising sound of gobbling just out of sight, turkey heads changing colors, the smoke from the wood stove at the farm, the laughs and stories we shared with our friends standing around the barn. The dogs running around, the taste of fresh cut asparagus, the smell of growth and changing seasons.

This sausage tastes like our spring on the Northern Neck of Virginia.

Interested in learning more about how to make your own wild game sausage? Be sure to stop by the Maven Journal next month when we'll feature one of Wade's Spring Turkey Sausage recipes. In the meantime, check out Elevated Wild's post about Sausage Making Basics.

 

About Wade: Wade Truong is a lifelong Virginian, self-taught chef and hunter. His work has been featured in the New York Times and Garden & Gun. His passion for cooking and sharing food is the foundation of his obsession with the outdoors and the resources they provide. He spends all of his free time hunting, fishing, foraging and exploring the bounty of the land and water. He believes that the more we participate with our environment, the more we understand that we need to protect it.

Instagram: @ElevatedWild
Website: elevatedwild.com