Personal trauma can leave such a strong imprint on the memory that anything surrounding it — songs, smells, foods — is forever tainted by association. Just ask John Lydon, whose childhood coma left him with a lifelong aversion to pork chops.
Lydon looked back on his brush with death in his recently published memoir, writing about the sense of despair he felt as a 7-year-old who needed to relearn basic, essential functions after making it through a serious bout with meningitis. “When I [came] out of the coma, I had no memory or recollection of who or what I was,” he recalled. “I couldn’t control my own body and I couldn’t talk. I did not recognize my own mom and dad. I did not know I had a name. I did not know I belonged to anybody or anything. I was completely and utterly alone.”
That lack of memory, alas, didn’t last when it came to what he’d eaten immediately prior to entering the hospital. “I’d had a pork chop the night before I was hospitalised and I’ve associated pork chops with illness to this day,” he told the Guardian in a recent interview. “I can’t go near a pork chop, I just can’t, although nothing will keep me away from my smoky bacon.”
While he’s sworn off pork chops, Lydon has far fonder memories of certain other foods from his childhood — and has paid dearly for them on at least one occasion.
“Mum would boil Brussels sprouts and cabbage for hours,” he recalled. “Years later, as an adult, during one of the occasions I had pneumonia, with a collapsed lung, a friend brought a cabbage round and I couldn’t wait to eat it, so it was only boiled for three minutes and the pain I suffered afterwards from the indigestion and appalling farting was staggering. I learnt my lesson that day.”