Friday, May 26, 2017


Memories are made of images, sounds, but also perfumes, tastes, and smells. Something ethereal that reaches our soul, penetrates our cells and stays in our mind forever. Like spices.

Nothing like food can create memories. It nourishes our body and at the same time our soul, it can help us to adapt to a new environment, can make us happy, or disgusted, or bored. Feelings and food are closely connected to each other.

In our mind, each different flavor is linked to a different mood.

When you move to another country, food is more likely the first local experience you’ll have.

In my case, when I moved to China I've met a very different kind of food: other ingredients, others seasonings are used and sometimes you really need to get used to them! After a while, I unexpectedly discovered that I loved them: they were directly related to my life in China and they carried all the memories of my first days here.

Especially spices, which give food all the various nuances and make it typical of a specific region. 

Five spices are able to make me travel in space and time, and remember things I thought were hidden in the bottom of my brain. 

CORIANDER is the king of spices in Asia! You can find it everywhere, and I even used it as the title for my novel about the adventures of three expat women in China! At the beginning I really couldn’t stand its smell: so pungent, so different! I found it almost disgusting. And now… I can’t live without it! I always use coriander when I cook Chinese style and its smell is so intimately connected to my life in China that I really love it.

PARSLEY like coriander is the king of Chinese cuisine, parsley is the king of the Italian one. You can put it literally everywhere: sprinkled on your spaghetti, lightly fried with garlic to season the fish, minced to create a fresh and creamy sauce. It looks very similar to coriander but its flavor is completely different. Here in China is not that easy to find it and, for this reason, when Grandma came here last year to visit us, she brought some fresh parsley picked from her garden. She had carefully wrapped it with kitchen paper and put it in the luggage trying not to squash it. When we took it out, it was still fresh and fragrant. We put it in a mug full of water and used it a bit at a time. It lasted a long time and its smell was so familiar, so comforting! That bunch of parsley made a long journey to come from her village to the big city in China and will remind me forever how deeply she loves us.

LEMON GRASS what is that? The first time I tried it, I was having lunch at a Thai restaurant, here in Suzhou. So fresh! I loved it. It reminds me how many different and wonderful places I still have to visit here in Asia. This continent has always fascinated me and my dream is to visit all its enchanting countries.

THYME my hometown is a small city laid between the mountains and the sea. The rugged and stony land behind its back is called “Carso” and it’s a very typical landscape of that region. When I was a child, my dad often took me to have a walk up there: I remember the strong wind in winter, the hot sun in summer. I remember he taught me not to go around the stones, where vipers could hide. In that harsh land, there were large zones without a single tree: only rocks, yellow grass, and red soil. Hidden in the dry, tall grass, there was a treasure: small plants of thyme. Their smell gave off at every step. 
Imagine my surprise when I found some fresh thyme here in Suzhou! I bought it and, once at home, I plunged my nose into the box. Sniffing all those old memories, I realized how many things about my life in Italy I have already forgotten. But my unconscious still knows them and will maybe bring them out in the most unexpected moment.

BASIL is another typical Mediterranean herb. Basil means summer, sun and hot weather. The season when, in the Italian countryside, people prepare the delicious tomato sauce made from just-harvested fruits. Those fresh tomatoes are still warm of sun, and sinking your teeth into their flavorful flesh is a special experience. Some leaves of basil are added in every jar of sauce, so when you open it, the following winter, it will still scent like summer.

And you? Which are the spices that make you travel with your fantasy?


  1. Does almond extract count as a spice? Because that would mean spritz cookies and Christmas in New England. :)

  2. Sure it can... sweet memories!