Spotlight: Stir a Memory

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The other day I bit into a piece of shortbread and found myself in England. Not literally of course, but something about the combination of butter and sweetness reminded me of the summers I spent there with my mother’s family growing up.

We’ve all had this experience: a smell, taste, or sound evoking some kind of memory. Perhaps not a vivid one, maybe just a feeling. Food certainly has this incredible power and presence in our minds. It has the ability to transfer us to a different place and time.

That is precisely what Krina Patel celebrates through her community food and art project, Stir a Memory, which invites you to document and share a favorite food memory. How? By using one of the simplest and most conventional delivery mechanisms out there: a postcard. Patel’s interest in food extends beyond her palate. After her doctoral research at the Harvard Graduate School of Education on food artisans in the Piedmont region of Italy, she “was looking for ways to highlight the fact that food is as much about stories–about emotions and memories–as it is about nutrition and calories.”

Patel’s own earliest food memories are tinged with flavors from her native India: Turmeric (Curcuma longa) and ‘mari’ (peppers). Hence the name of her original blog, Curcumari, where her Stir a Memory project first got underway.

Last May, Patel kicked off the project at the Fort Point Spring Art Walk. She created a visual arts exhibit on food and memory, followed by a tasting of dishes from various communities in Boston that have relocated from other countries, like India and Lebanon.

The evening was such a success that Patel decided to continue the project on Curcumari. She asked readers to send in postcards expressing their food memories through words and images. The response called for an expansion of the project into its own site, Stir a Memory, which now centers on these cards. They reflect the relationships people have with food and the motley of emotions surrounding food—some are outright joyful, others nostalgic and mournful.

To narrow the focus of these food memories, Patel now allots a theme to each month. December’s? You guessed it: holidays. To join in the conversation, send a postcard with your favorite holiday food memory to:

Stir A Memory
PO Box: 51042
Boston, MA 02205