Editor's Note: Remembering things past


3.6.12 “An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me.” Those words are part of Marcel Proust’s famous description his encounter with a madeleine cookie from Remembrance of Things Past and crystallize his notion of ‘involuntary memory,’ a concept that made it all the way from his literature into the canon of modern psychology.

I remember reading the book in college and being bored to tears by it, but perking up all the same at a discussion about the way taste, smell, and memory seemed to have a hard-wired relationship. Yesterday I caught a whiff of something on the street that transported me instantly to the summers of my childhood, spent in a cabin by a lake with no electricity. It was probably the subtle smell of propane, which emanated from the gas-powered refrigerator, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that, for a moment, I felt exactly as if I was standing in the kitchen of that cabin in the early morning, with all the possibility of a summer’s day ahead of me.

This week’s feature is about J.W. “Jinx” Kern, a Charlottesville character, who has created a time portal out of a small shack near the corner of Market and Meade by infusing pork with primeval smoke and layering a half century of memorabilia on the walls of his clapboard building. These days we are bombarded by new information, which me mostly consume with our eyes. Take a deep breath and consider this from Jinx: “When the wind is right in this establishment, and the cooker is going, and it’s got a hickory fire in it and the humidity outside is just right, I can close my eyes and get a whiff of that, and bang it’s Paducah 1960.”–Giles Morris