For the past two years, I’ve been trying to figure out what makes food taste incredible as opposed to merely good or great. And now, I think I’ve found the answer.
It’s often said that great cooking is a combination of great ingredients and technique. Unquestionably, the quality of produce and skill of the cook* both have a tremendous influence on the final dish. But incredible food often contains one additional element – nostalgia. Like flipping through an old photo album, food has the power to arouse memories and bring us back to special moments in time.
Incredible food, in my opinion, has at least as much to do with nostalgia, as it does with ingredients and technique. To anyone else, my mom’s meatballs are probably not the best in the world. But they are the best to me, because of the memories I associate with them and because they’re the meatballs that I’m most familiar with. So even if a dish doesn’t use great ingredients and technique, it’s possible for these limitations to be overcome by the nostalgia that a diner brings to the table. Understanding and taking advantage of your guest's food-related memories is cooking’s secret ingredient.