Food as My Dewey Decimal System

At my day job a few months ago, I interviewed actress Marilu Henner. And I wish I could have talked to her for five hours instead of five minutes. Marilu is one of only twelve documented people in the world who can remember nearly every day of her life. It’s incredible! Give her a date, she’ll tell you what was going on in her world. Not just who she was married to and what city she was living in. We’re talking what she had for lunch, who she called on her way to run errands, the story she watched on the news and the items she picked up at the drug store. Things that I can’t remember about yesterday, she can recall in an instant from 25 years ago.

Marilu wrote a fascinating book about her super memory and teaches those of us with average (or less-than-average) craniums how to maximize what we can recall. She says everyone has a “track” which they use to file memories. And within minutes of meeting me, she said she already knew what my track is. Food.

Anyone surprised? I’m going with no.

Basically, I use food as my Dewey Decimal system for my memories. I am likely to first remember the restaurant, the dish I ate or the meal I cooked and then other things about the event flood in behind it. She totally had me pegged.

When I look at an ingredient or a dish, I’m often brought back to where I ate it. After the initial memory of the food comes back to me, I remember the surrounding details: who accompanied me, where I was, what I was feeling like at the time.

I was recently in my college town of Madison, Wisconsin and walked past a sushi restaurant called Takara on State Street. Immediately I was brought back to my first sushi-eating experience. I was barely 18, a freshman in college and out to dinner with a group of girls I was sure were more worldly, much more experienced and overall cooler than me.

I ate everything they ordered so I didn’t look stupid, no matter how exotic and downright scary it looked. Octopus salad, anyone? My polar plunge into sushi worked. I still go straight for the sashimi and tentacle pieces of calamari every time.

When I think of burrata, I think of Frank.

It’s an Italian restaurant near my sister’s apartment in the East Village of New York City. If Marilu Henner met my sisters, she’d likely call them out on their food track memories as well. Frank serves the fresh Italian cheese on Sundays and whenever I stay in the city for a long weekend, we love to stop for a bite. It doesn’t matter than my pants are tight and I’ve already eaten my way through the city. We eat it. Although sometimes we take it home and change into yoga pants first.

This week, I was wandering the aisles of my local Whole Foods and spotted it. A plastic container holding a ball of white cheese in cloudy water. At first glance, it looks like typical fresh mozzarella. But when you cut into the cheese, you are in for a big, delightful surprise my friends.

My food track memory lit up. Will it have the same firm-on-the-outside, melty-in-the-middle inside that’s so perfect on a Sunday evening in New York City?

I’m taking the polar plunge.

Using burrata, basil from my backyard and yellow heirloom tomatoes (not quite ready in my garden, but they will be soon!), I made this:


Burrata Caprese Salad

Use this:

2 medium heirloom tomatoes, very coarsely chopped (I used yellow tomatoes, use whatever color you are growing)

1/4 cup fresh basil, cut in a chiffonade

1 burrata

Best quality extra-virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar you can afford

kosher salt

freshly cracked pepper

Do this:

Scatter tomatoes on a large platter. Sprinkle basil on top of tomatoes. Place the burrata in the middle. Drizzle salad with olive oil and vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve, making sure each eater gets a good bit of the oozy burrata middle.


2 thoughts on “Food as My Dewey Decimal System

  1. I NEED to get my hands on some Burrata!!! I just don’t live or work by a Whole Foods…..either way, love the post and I’ll get my hands on some soon and try your recipe! Can’t wait to learn more about your new babies! 🙂

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