Food should be about joy.
Instead it too often involves anger, fear, disgust and sadness.
That’s the plot of the new Pixar movie, Inside Out.
Not the food bit, but the emotions humans use to remember things (and why Lewis Black’s angry man character in the film is so compelling).
The movie tells the story of 11-year-old Riley, a hockey player from Minnesota, and her difficulty dealing with a family move to San Francisco.
They had me at girl hockey player, since all five of my daughters play(ed).
My most compelling food memory is this: when my first child was born at home, 28 years ago, I remember walking in Guelph with her 12 hours after birth, and then a couple of friends came over.
I cooked a stuffed trout.
I still remember that stuffed trout as the best ever, but that was probably fuelled by the emotions of the first kid.
Inside Out plays on similar emotions, as did Ratatouille, another Pixar film, in 2007.
Carole Peterson, a professor of psychology at Memorial University in Newfoundland, says that, “Children have a very good memory system. But whether or not something hangs around long-term depends on several other factors” such as whether the memory “has emotion infused in it,” and whether the memory is coherent.
Inside Out gets this right.
Research from Eric Kandel’s lab at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) has uncovered further evidence of a system in the brain that persistently maintains memories for long periods of time. Paradoxically, it works in the same way as mechanisms that cause mad cow disease, kuru, and other degenerative brain diseases.
In four papers published in Neuron and Cell Reports, Dr. Kandel’s laboratory show how prion-like proteins – similar to the prions behind mad cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeld-Jakob disease in humans – are critical for maintaining long-term memories in mice, and probably in other mammals.
When long-term memories are created in the brain, new connections are made between neurons to store the memory. But those physical connections must be maintained for a memory to persist, or else they will disintegrate and the memory will disappear within days. Many researchers have searched for molecules that maintain long-term memory, but their identity has remained elusive.
People learn through and retain stories. Technology is just a tool to deliver the story
Chapman and I figured that out in the early 2000s, going to the bathroom in the restaurant after playing hockey and seeing sports pages above urinals, and ultimately convincing the manager to post food safety stories.
As part of his PhD research, Chapman partnered with a food service company in Canada and placed small video cameras in unobtrusive spots around eight food-service kitchens that volunteered to participate in the study. There were as many as eight cameras in each kitchen, which recorded directly to computer files and later reviewed by Chapman and others.
Food safety inforsheets, highlighting the importance of handwashing or preventing cross-contamination, for example, were then introduced into the kitchens, and video was again collected. We found that cross-contamination events decreased by 20 per cent, and handwashing attempts increased by 7 per cent.
Tell a food safety story, make it compelling.
And involve female hockey players.
Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.