Give Me a Dose of the Past
I dress my mind in the past because it makes me feel comfortable and happy. I watch current fads but I don’t follow them. When I visit thrift shops and estate sales, I eat up collectibles that remind me of my youth.
My taste in nostalgia began thirteen years ago when my mother sold our family home. My brothers and I cleaned out the attic and tossed things from our adolescence into a dumpster. When we finished, the dumpster held two decades worth of pop culture artifacts. Among the things we discarded were old toys, groovy style clothing from the 1970’s, a pair of platform shoes, a broken Rubrics cube, and disco roller skates.
When I see newer versions of old trends being sold in department stores, I begin a journey of mental time travel back to the era I grew up in. Whether or not I purchase an item depends on how strong of a memory it provokes.
For example, when Milton Bradley released an anniversary addition of Candy Land in a special collector’s tin, I ate it right up because the game board and pieces were identical to the version of the game my brothers and I played as children.
It seems this sort of nostalgic feeling is exactly what manufacturers are hoping shoppers will experience. In his article titled “Nostalgia is Good Medicine” Psychology Today columnist, Clay Routledge, discusses this marketing strategy as he examines the positive effects of nostalgia. According to Routledge, studies have shown that fond memories can be conjured up simply by “providing consumers with products they are nostalgic for.”
I love to watch clothing come back into style that was considered “hip” thirty years ago because it allows me to re-experience the fashion craze that was popular when I was growing up. Platform shoes are one example of this. During the disco craze, men and women wore these high-heeled monstrosities. Now they’re back in style for women, and whenever I see someone wearing them, I am not only amused that I once owned a pair, but also by the skill it takes to walk without tripping.
I know what is vogue in pop culture will turn up at rummage sales once people get bored with it. At second hand shops, I often see electric typewriters, acid washed jeans, boom boxes, Walkman radios, and Atari game systems. I’m sure someday I’ll come across iPods, worn out pairs of Uggs and Wii game systems.
While it’s not uncommon to find a cookbook for a fad diet, I rarely find vintage recipe books at the used bookstore. I think this is because people never become bored with the memories they have of sharing meals with their family. In fact, Routledge says that nostalgia is a psychological medicine because it provokes a positive feeling by allowing our minds to conjure up past experiences that we remember as fulfilling and worthwhile. Because family recipe books offer a serving of nostalgia, they ultimately become valuable heirlooms.
I now have the cookbooks that were passed down to my mother from my grandparents. When I turn the pages, it’s always to the meals and desserts I remember enjoying the most as a child. If I’m feeling lonely, the recipes help to reunite me with a time when everyone in my family was still alive and healthy. I especially enjoy baking my mother’s favorite pineapple upside-down cake recipe from Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook. I’ve used the recipe so many times I know it by heart:
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Melt ¼ cup butter in heavy 10” skillet or baking dish. Sprinkle ½ cup brown sugar evenly over batter. Arrange drained pineapple in attractive pattern on the butter sugar coating, and garnish with maraschino cherries and pecan halves
Make the cake batter:
Beat 2 eggs until thick and lemon-colored (5 min.)
Gradually beat in 2/3 cup sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla flavoring
Sift together and beat in all at once 1 cup sifted flour, ½ tsp. baking powder, ¼ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. vanilla
Pour cake batter over the pineapple and brown sugar in cake pan/skillet
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean
Immediately turn upside-down on serving plate
Do not remove from pan for a few minutes
Serve plain or topped with whipped cream
Eating a slice of this cake reminds me of my mother’s smile and warmth as she served it for dessert on Easter Sunday.
No matter what it is that I find nostalgic, it’s the memory of happy times that makes me feel good.