Madeleines with Tea
The extraordinariness of afternoon tea in Proust
story by Jasmijn Oostwal
Many of us may be familiar with this: a particular smell or taste makes us suddenly remember an episode of our lives which we thought we had long forgotten about. This phenomenon, where an unexpected sensation evokes highly vivid memories, has become known as the Proust phenomenon, named after one of the most renowned scenes of Marcel Proust’s (1871 – 1922) novel cycle À la recherche du temps perdu (‘In Search of Lost Time’), which was published between 1913 and 1927. In this scene, the main protagonist and narrator Marcel, takes a little bite of an ordinary madeleine dipped into a cup of lime-blossom tea and is suddenly transported to a flood of vivid memories of his childhood spent in Combray. In this post, we will discover how exactly the combination of the madeleine and the tea re-evokes such involuntary memories of long forgotten times.