For me it is unquestionably strawberry jam.
During my childhood, I lived in a five story concrete apartment block, number 82, in a vast complex of anonymous buildings in a corner of Seoul, Korea. I still remember that it was slightly humid as I walked home from the bus stop, although I can’t remember whether I was wearing my favorite pair of mustard colored corduroys. The entrance to our section of the building was a pair of heavy glass doors, and only one side opened. On that day I pulled open the door and was hit by the smell of strawberries. It was a concentration of an intense fruity strawberry scent with an undercurrent of sweetness, like caramel. We lived on the top floor, with no elevator, so it was five flights of stairs to get to our apartment; ten half sections of steps broke up the trip with 180 degree turns. I remember that the strawberry scent became stronger and stronger as I climbed, but it never occurred to me that it could be originating from our family’s kitchen. I was 9 years old. I rang the bell and when my mother opened the door, I was hit in full force by sweet, sticky, strawberry-ness, a total immersion, which included all the heat and moisture from the kitchen that comes from cooking fruit down and boiling the jars to preserve homemade jam.
Deleuze talks about the "rhizome" in his writings, particularly in A Thousand Plateaus. It is, as I am beginning to understand, an idea about multiplicities: interconnections that are non-hierarchical chains that may not be directly joined but belong as a component of a greater whole. How does this connect with strawberry jam? I am an American living in London, grateful but displaced from much of what was familiar while I go to graduate school. Encountering a new culture, living with a different syntax of my native language, and struggling with the strain of lockdowns plus disruptions due to the Covid19 pandemic. I climb the five flights of stairs to my apartment, even though there is an elevator, and they are also divided into ten half sections with 180 degree turnings. A spoonful of strawberry jam, savored slowly; 40 years drop away.
That morning, at the market, my mother had acquired the bargain priced boxes of overripe strawberries and had spent hours washing, then trimming, then cooking down all the fruit. It was a labor of love.