The memory of madeleines

9 May

On 24 August 2021 I wrote

It’s glorious weather here today. And I’m on holiday from work this week, so after a lazy start and a walk with the dogs I made some madeleines. Oh my good god they are delicious!

And this afternoon I pootled a bit, then had a coffee break on the Terrace and did a bit of stabbing.

I called Mum late afternoon and talked about flowers for a minute or two. That was fine.

Now might be the time to state that I have never read any Proust. And it seems likely that I probably never will if I’m honest (and I like being honest).

But I had a desire to understand about the whole madeleines Proust thing (which is no doubt impossible to fully understand if I resort to Wikipedia instead of actually going to the primary source). Anyway, I now know that in A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, or In Search of Lost Time if you want the English translation, the madeleines are used to demonstrate involuntary memory, and how it differs from the partial memory of voluntary memory.

Basically, when the character in the book tastes a madeleine dipped in tea it brings forth a forgotten memory of his aunt eating madeleines dipped in tea on a Sunday morning. And I guess a whole lot of other associated stuff with that memory.

I get this. I had this involuntary memory experience a couple of years when I saw Mum spooning the froth off the top of her cup of hot chocolate in a café. I realised I do this whenever I get a frothy drink. I also find myself sometimes involuntarily ordering a black coffee with a wee jug of cold milk on the side, because this is exactly what Dad used to order, and sometimes his words just come out before I have thought about the fact that I prefer a flat white. I wonder if Dad might have liked a flat white, if they had been more readily available in his lifetime?

Anyway, memories.

Memories of memories.

And shadows of memories, ghosts of memories.

I’m interested in what we remember, and what we lose. What we notice at the time, and what we hold in our memory banks so we can revisit them later. I hope I always remember the woodpecker that had breakfast at the birdfeeder just 2 feet from my desk this morning. Will it come back to me, unbidden, if I see a woodpecker again when I am old? Will I always remember that moment it first landed on the birdfeeder and I held my breath, lest I disturb it? And how when it had its fill, it flew back up to the telegraph pole and clung on, in classic woodpecker pose, but this time not so close, so I couldn’t see the detail of each and every feather.

Also, I do love the photograph (above) of the ghosts of madeleines, created by the dusting of icing sugar.


You might want to dip into other posts, or understand how we got to this point? This series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation, an embroidery project I started after I realised Mum might have dementia. There I was, embroidering her old fisherman’s smock with symbols relating to her life; as her memories were being thrown around like so many pieces of jigsaw in a big box.

2 Responses to “The memory of madeleines”

  1. chiefmadapple May 12, 2023 at 3:09 pm #

    Gosh I just drew my dog in search of lost madeleines! Here’s to frothy drinks



  1. Taking Smock of the Situation | Shewolfinthevalley - May 11, 2023

    […] The memory of madeleines […]


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