A musical feast

Melissa Leong reflects on a story told to her by a friend that illustrates the combined power of food and song.

I recently commented to a friend about a video post she’d made on Instagram. It was of her 94 year old grandmother, dancing to loud Italian music, surrounded by great grand children running around and the rest of the family preparing a Sunday feast of Ben Hur proportions. What a legend! What a party animal, revelling in the chaos of a beautiful family moment.

The expression on Jo’s grandmother’s beautiful face was one of such joy, which made it even more potent when Jo explained that due to her grandmother’s dementia, she spends most of her days in an aged care facility, where she can’t remember her own daughter, who visits her daily and is fearful to leave the home.

The family decided that in order to try and give her some richness in these last years, they would regularly take her back to the family home, bring everyone around and celebrate the way she used to when she was more vital. They would cook family recipes, open too many bottles of wine and encourage the little ones to do what they do best (mainly to create mess and noise).

The transformation in her upon hearing music and children in fits of giggles, smelling comforting and familiar food and seeing a table laden with food and surrounded by family, was striking. This frail and fearful woman once more became the life of the party and the matriarch everyone remembered.

Food and music is emotional. It draws us out of ourselves and into memories of times in our lives that we shared with loved ones. Music, smells and tastes seem to have a unique power to transport us to forgotten feelings, places and events. Our senses seem to remember things that slipped our minds long ago.

These days, regardless of whether it’s making a low key dinner, or preparing for friends to come over, there’s always someone’s favourite music playing and food being cooked intended to be shared with loved ones because whether they seem significant or not in the moment they are, after all, memories in the making.

Melissa Leong, fooderati.com.au