Using Food to Evoke Memories

How a Cookbook is Doing Just

@Atria Senior Living

Nothing says home like the smell, sight and taste of a familiar recipe. A recent report on National Public Radio found that Mom's comfort food evoked more memories of childhood than photos or favorite toys. Atria Senior Living has found a way to bring favorite memories to a wider audience through A Dash and a Dollop, a cookbook of favorite recipes, according to Cara Slider, Atria spokesperson. Let's learn how we can use food to evoke memory.

"It is common for residents in our senior living communities to provide their favorite recipes to the Director of Culinary Services to recreate, and we know the important role that food plays in many families' lives," Slider said. "Every year, we create a resident gift for the more than 13,000 Atria residents nationwide. "We decided that a recipe book full of recipes from residents and employees, along with the stories behind each one, would make a great gift that could be passed down through generations."

While most of the recipes are from residents, Slider said, A Dash and a Dollop also includes recipes from employees and company leaders. Residents' whose recipes are included in the book received additional copies to give to family and friends.

The cookbook has benefits on many levels beyond personalized gift giving, Slider said. "First and foremost, it helps preserve treasured family memories that are often only passed down through word of mouth. It also gives residents and staff across the country a special way to connect," she said.

For other retirement communities, personal care and assisted living, nursing homes and adult day centers interested in compiling a cookbook Slider suggests be sure to make it fun, involve everyone, and give it a unique flair with a theme or concept.

Examples from the book include Jeannette Weledniger who contributed her recipe for Hungarian pogacsa butter cookies. "My Mom made these cookies and she could compete with any of today's gourmet cooks," Weledniger said. "Her baking was passed onto me and was subsequently passed onto my daughters and granddaughters."

Erika Treutler, a resident at Atria Collier Park said, "As a girl, around 1910 my mother was sent to work in a kitchen of an aristocrat's estate. She brought back many recipes, but we loved to make goulash with an Austrian twist."

This is the recipe:

Goulash with an Austrian Accent serves four.


  • 2 tsp. marjoram
  • 1 tsp. caraway seed
  • 1 tsp. lemon rind finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3/4c. butter
  • 1 tsp. tomato paste
  • 2 lbs. onions sliced
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 2 lbs beef
  • 1 ½ c of water
  • salt to taste

Preparation: Crush marjoram, caraway seed, lemon rind and garlic together. Place in a large pot and add butter, tomato paste and onions. Saute until onions are golden. Add paprika and stir for 30 seconds. Cut beef into 1 inch cubes. Add to pot. Add 1 cup of water and salt to taste. Cover the pot and simmer for 1 ½ hours. Before removing from heat, add the remaining 1 ½ cup of water and let boil up one more time.

Marcel Proust famously captured the connection between food and memory in his novel In Search of Lost Time (Remembrance of Things Past):

When from the distant past nothing remains, after the beings have died, after the things are destroyed and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, yet more vital, more insubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of everything else; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the immense architecture of memory.

Our hope is that you create great experiences using food to evoke memories.

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