Almond Soap, Rhapsody in Blue, Marcel Proust, United, and more.

used to fly with United. A lot. This was back in the days when their on-time record was #1, and not in the crapper; before they broke guitars; when I had earned Premier Executive status and was upgraded on a regular basis; and when even coach flyers were treated like valuable customers. I remember flying as an unaccompanied minor in the 50’s and being¬†very well taken care of by the flight attendants.


Those days are gone forever, I fear me.

But some memories will linger forever, and come roaring back in an instant, and that’s where Marcel Proust comes in. In Remembrance of Things Past,¬†Proust was instantly transported back to a childhood memory by the taste of a madeleine[1] soaked in tea, an experience which was charmingly riffed on in Pixar’s “Ratatouille”, when Anton Ego’s heart suddenly grew three sizes, spurred by a sudden recollection of a comforting childhood gastronomic memory.

(Brilliantly played by Peter O’Toole)

The senses of taste and smell (inextricably related) are some of the most long-lasting and evocative in terms of memory. I’d be willing to bet almost all of us have had the experience of smelling or tasting something, and instantly being taken back in memory to the time and place where that smell or taste was experienced.

The Goodwoman of the House is a practical soul, and knows how to squeeze a penny so hard that Lincoln begs for mercy:

Some time ago, she bought a large bottle of hand soap to refill our pump dispensers at the sink. It happened to be almond scented. One whiff of that, and I was whisked aboard a United Airlines 777 headed for Frankfurt, because it’s the same scent as what one found in the jetliner lavatories. At the same time, my ears would fill with the strains of Gershwin, because United used Rhapsody in Blue as their theme music for almost the entire ten years when I was traveling around the world extensively.

This is the underpass between United’s terminals B and C at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. The psychedelic flashing Neon lights, the tinkling interpretation of Gershwin, and the repetitive nasal voice intoning “The moving walkway is ending… please look down” all come back when I wash my hands, and by the same token I can’t ever hear Rhapsody in Blue without thinking of United. It’s a curse, I suppose, but not the worst one I could have been afflicted with since I’m quite fond of Gershwin.

But I won’t fly United again until they get their act together; I’m not holding my breath.

The Old Wolf has Spoken.

1 If you’re interested in learning how to make Proust’s famous Madeleine’s, visit Cooking with the Old Wolf.