Supposedly, the taste of a madeleine caused old Marcel Proust to recall his past. Watermelon did the trick for me.
I like watermelon, but only good watermelon. Each time I eat some, I recall summer trips to visit relatives in Virginia during my early years. The drive was long and hot (glad I wasn’t driving), but the excitement of long trips erased any displeasure. These trips are always associated with black farmers selling huge watermelons off trucks beside the road (no Interstate back then) in the part of Virginia the sticks up into Maryland across the Chesapeake Bay. I recall the price: 2 cents a pound, and buying an eighteen pounder: 36 cents.
That was a time of first exposure to racial inequality, because I noticed the shacks in which those farmers dwelled.
The watermelons I buy now are round and about the size of a basketball (have I mentioned that this is a dumb sport?), but the flavor can be sublime. Most are grown in Spain, but not all are equally flavorful. Supermarket melons tend to not so good, whereas ones from my fruit and veg Turk are great...and always gives me those Proust moments.
The kitchen situation at home caused me to have a Marcel Proust moment, although not one piqued by the taste of a madeleine, something I must have eaten but which is associated with no memories. No, quintessentially American taste sparked thoughts of past repasts: I had a simple McDonalds cheeseburger, small French fries (less French than a madeleine), and a small coke. Few recall that this was the original menu offering, when the chain first spread across the land. My first taste was in the early 60s in Connecticut on the way to visit relatives in Virginia (the land of “whites only” signs).
I cannot count the times I have enjoyed and/or eaten such a simple meal. I remember the pleasure after summer hockey games at the Worcester Arena (one of the worst rinks ever). Or the time I drove from Texas to Massachusetts in 26 hours, stopping only for gas and to grab food from a drive in window. Of course, I preferred Friendly’s, but their spread was limited.
I grown up to quarter pounder with cheese, to large fries, and to large coke, with the occasional hot apple pie or “milk” shake, but the need to drive and eat forces one to choose simple cheeseburger can be eaten with one hand and no worry of spills.
If he were alive today, old Marcel would surely be able to empathize...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.