12.02.2007

Proust On The Prairie


The involuntary memories produced by a particular smell (referred to as Proustian memory in psychology) are the basis for one of the longest novels ever written, "Remembrance of Things Past", by Marcel Proust. Proust's protagonist, upon smelling fresh-baked madelleines (which were orange-scented cookies), is flooded with the memories of his life, resulting in a 3200 page novel/deadly weapon/strong sedative.

I have had many Proustian memories over the past week, every time I have peeled and eaten one of these fragrant cuties:





I couldn't believe it when I saw boxes upon boxes of satsumas in my local grocery last weekend. If I remember correctly, Louisiana satsumas, which are only grown in a very small geographical area south of New Orleans, down by the mouth of the Mississippi River, are a cross between mandarin oranges and navel oranges. As a result, they are extremely flavorful, with a skin that zips off very easily and no seeds. Their smell and flavor is unique - there are no other citrus fruits that taste quite like a satsuma.

They are only available for a very short window of time, usually right before Christmas. I have never seen them for sale outside of southeast Louisiana before. So I bought 5 boxes and have been unzipping and eating them like crazy.

The unexpected pleasure has been in the flood of memories I have been experiencing almost every time I've eaten one, starting with the unpeeling. You see, my father loved satsumas - they were probably his favorite fruit. From the time I was a very little girl, we would go to the old French Market, roaming down the aisles past vendors selling fresh seafood, vegetables, pecans, softball-sized green avocados, Christmas trees, and the praline lady to buy boxes of fresh fruit to be made into fruit baskets for friends, shared with my grandmother, and there was always a huge mesh sack of satsumas, so fresh some had their bright green leaves attached. We would feast on satsumas until they were all gone. And then, miraculously, on Christmas morning there would be some more in our stockings and a large mound of them in the big green glass fruit bowl.

Not only have I had the thought-memories. But, like Proust, I have experienced the sensory memories also - the smells, the sights, the tastes, and best of all, my father's smell and voice have been so strongly remembered.

I won't eat all 5 boxes, of course. I've been sharing this luscious windfall with my work family, some friends and Mr. C. They won't have the richness of all of the wonderful memories to go along with the satsumas of course, but it gives them all just a little taste of my home.

And in between satsumas, I have actually been able to get a bit of knitting done. I finished 2 more pairs of the hand warmers for the retirement home project. If you held them up to your nose, you'd notice a distinct citrusy smell.

3 comments:

Dianne said...

I've never heard of a satsuma. What wonderful memories they brought back for you - thanks for sharing! Also, Jenny was home for the weekend and I gave her the treats & snuggle. She said to thank you so very much. I took pictures - if they came out OK I'll post one on my blog. Thanks very much!!!

BOSSY said...

Bossy can practically smell that citrus.

Nichole said...

The citrus cross sounds so yummy!!!!!!