Transcendental Food

Without warning, food transports me through space and time.

Last month I finished a business meeting 30 miles from my childhood home and had two hours till I was due at the airport. Forty minutes later I was parked here, in front of the old house in Michigan and the maple tree in radiant bloom. The residents invited me inside, and when I saw the stairway, suddenly the memory of tumbling head over heels down those stairs smacked me. Ouch!

Not very surprising that visiting a once-familiar place ignites intense memories.

This morning, without warning, a cupcake transported me. A friend made an assortment of great cupcakes for Halloween: apple-cinnamon, pumpkin, brownies, and maple. I steer away from maple-flavored foods because I know how real maple tastes.

Not far from that radiant maple tree in my childhood front yard were thousands of other maples. Our friends and neighbors tapped the trees for sap and ever so slowly boiled it down into mouth-watering maple syrup and maple sugar. They spoiled me for maple flavoring.

I asked my friend about her maple cupcakes, and she told me that she used real maple syrup. Besides the maple syrup in the cake, she poured maple syrup on top of the cakes in a bowl of frosting.

I live in exile in Southern California, half a continent away from my beloved maple trees. I expected to like the cupcake, but the first bite took me back decades and half a continent away.

For me it was a little like receiving holy communion. In my heart I go back to people and to churches in different states and on different continents. Or, I dream forward into eternity.

About Ben Unseth

Executive Director at Project Understanding (2014-2017), social service agency in Ventura, CA
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