My deepening interest led me to creating (with the help of my husband, Rod) a website devoted to Marcel Proust, his novel, In Search of Lost Time, and his city, Paris. I called this website “Madeleine Moments” because of the most well-known scene from the novel, in which the narrator tells of eating a piece of madeleine (a small, scallop-shaped cake/cookie) dipped in tea and subsequently experiencing what he calls an “involuntary memory”; what I call a madeleine moment. We’ve probably all had them, now here’s your place to share them. Marcel first, then me, then you?
Here’s what Proust wrote:
“And suddenly the memory returns. The taste was that of the little crumb of madeleine which on Sunday mornings, when I went to say good day to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of real or of lime-flower tea…And as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in the decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me, immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set…and with the house the town….the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine…the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea.”
(Adapted from Swann’s Way, In Search of Lost Time)
And from my website, here’s my “madeleine moment”:
“First, a little history. When I began painting in my early teens, I began with oils, on my own and learning from the book that came with the set. But at some point I switched to acrylics and watercolor, probably because they are easier to work with and clean up after and so therefore, are the mediums of choice in public school systems, where I began taking painting classes. I continued taking painting classes and painting on my own right up to the present, but only in acrylic and watercolor, not oils. This past Christmas I requested and was given a set of oil paints (Yes, Virginia…) but discovered that I was actually intimidated by the prospect of painting with them. Scared, really, that I wasn’t good enough to use them and they were difficult to use and I had no experience and had never been officially “taught” how to use them. I finally got a book that had exercises for a novice oil painter and told myself to just do the exercises and gradually I’d feel confident enough to paint a picture with them. So I sat down at my painting table, opened the jars of linseed oil and turpentine and squeezed some paint out onto my palette and… Madeleine Moment: I was a young teenager again, sitting at the kitchen table, painting a still life of some apples. The combined smells of the linseed oil, turpentine and paints had caused the scene to rise up around me, as Marcel says, like a stage set; I could see the plastic tablecloth design and the apples arranged on the table, I could feel the brush in my hand and the texture of the canvas through the brush, and perhaps most significantly, felt the way I did when painting with these oils. It was like being in two places, and two times, at once. An immediate effect of this experience was that my fear of painting with oils was gone, I felt as I did then- eager to learn and excited to create and not in the least intimidated. Of broader consequence was an understanding of Marcel’s madeleine moments and how they revealed to him a way of existing outside of time itself. “That explained why my apprehensiveness of death vanished at the moment I instinctively recognized the savor of the little madeleine, because at that moment the person within me was a timeless person, consequently unconcerned with the vicissitudes of the future.” Death becomes meaningless. Not bad for a little piece of madeleine.”
If you would like to share a madeleine moment of your own, or read moments others have shared, click on “comments” and leave a moment of your own.