(someone else’s) Theory of Everything

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Apple Strudel

Apple strudel with vanilla custard.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro, Sweden 2016

In a recent study, it was found that the essence or aroma of vanilla made people happy [1,2]. Still, I wonder if it was the serendipity of the find or if vanilla, being one of the most widely used essences in baking, would activate certain Madeleine moments for many. Through some mouthfuls of apple strudel filled with rum soaked raisins, butter toasted bread crumbs wrapped in layers of phyllo pastry topped with – vanilla custard – the research of Cristina Alberini and Joseph E. LeDoux comes to mind on memory reconsolidating:

“The traditional view of memory storage assumes that each time we remember some past experience, the original memory trace is retrieved. This view has been challenged by data showing that when memories are retrieved they are susceptible to change, such that future retrievals call upon the changed information. This is called reconsolidating.” [3:746]

Alberini and LeDoux go on to explain that there are two views of how memory works. The conventional view is that memories are stored once and each time the memory is activated, a trace of the original experience is retrieved. According to the reconsolidation view, memories are susceptible to change each time they are retrieved. The next time the memory is activated, what is called up is the version stored during the last retrieval, rather than the version stored after the original experience. Memory evolves, and the experience of what was experienced, changes.

“The picture that emerges is that long-term memories are stabilized and then de-stabilized and re-stabilized according to the reactivation schedule of their traces. Hence they appear to undergo many reconsolidation cycles in the course of their existence. Memory storage is thus a dynamic process and a consolidated memory is far from being ‘fixed’. One important consequence of this dynamic process is that established memories, which have reached a level of stability, can be bidirectionally modulated and modified: they can be weakened, disrupted or enhanced, and be associated to parallel memory traces.” [3:746]

This sweet apple strudel, the scent of vanilla custard over its layers of pastry just before serving, is one such reconsolidating cycle to a memory of a memory. Never a dessert to ‘get used to’ rather it only changes the perspective of what once was.

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Apple Strudel

I used a Viennese apple strudel recipe that called for butter toasted bread crumbs. These drenched in butter bread crumbs are also found in some family recipes of baked apples in Sweden.

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Apple Strudel

Sugar. Carefully measured to ‘a lot’. Strewn.

syrup

Dark syrup. Drizzled.

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Apple Strudel

Fold.

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Apple Strudel

Dust.

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, Apple Strudel

Serve.

Vanilla custard

I used one part whole milk, one part heavy cream to four egg yolks and vanilla bean pods. Some raw sugar. Temper the egg yolks till the mixture is creamy, thick and to the point where you’ll need to stop yourself from finishing this off completely on its own. Put the wooden ladle down. Step aside to let cool.

Plate

Register for that (next) non-Madeleine moment. Enjoy.

References
[1] Mojet, J., D ürrschmid, K., Danner, L., Jöchl, M., Heini&ouml, R-L., Holthuysen, N. & Köster, E. (2015). Are implicit emotion measurements evoked by food unrelated to liking? Food Research International, 76:224 DOI: 10.1016/j.foodres.2015.06.031
[2] Elsevier. (2015, November 9). Vanilla yogurt makes us feel happy. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 12, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151109084319.htm
[3] Alberini, C. M., & Ledoux, J. E. (2013). Memory reconsolidation. Current Biology : CB, 23(17), R746-R750. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2013.06.046

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