A Keen Sense of Smell

Are you one of those people who savor the smell of the air after it rains, salty ocean breezes, new books, newsprint, roses, and aftershave? In the spring I notice the fragrance of Daphne bushes near the library, freshly-mown grass, and clothes that have hung outside. I also smile at the balm of a baby’s milky breath, baby shampoo, Jergens classic cherry-almond hand lotion, a mild sunburn (yes, I know it’s not healthy), and a hot iron on a shirt (a rare scent!)

Do you notice the pervading aura of restaurants you pass? Some, I’ve heard, spew aromas into the air to lure in customers. Works on me! I don’t need a sign to tell me when I’m driving by a place that offers burgers and fries, Italian, Chinese, Mexican, or East Indian food, and I may be tempted to stop, whether or not my stomach is sending hunger signals.

I also enjoy the essence of breakfast—coffee, bacon and eggs, pancakes, Maple syrup. Even the smell of toast makes it from a neighbor’s house to our slightly-open window in the early morning.

Growing up, I loved to catch a whiff from the kitchen—chili and cornbread, pot roast, split pea soup, spaghetti, tuna-noodle casserole, smelt, liver and onions (I’m a fan), tacos, cold fried chicken, potato salad, and home-grown, sliced tomatoes. My mom makes the best oatmeal cookies, not to mention peanut butter cookies, sugar cookies, and peppernuts at Christmastime.

Corn Silk

But it’s not just sweets I savor.The tang of fresh asparagus perks me up, as does broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, peas, artichokes, beets, baked potatoes, and freshly-husked corn, accompanied by the unmistakable bouquet of corn silk.

When I worked in a maze of cubicles, I noticed the tang of citrus in the air when someone peeled an orange or a tangerine. I love the fruitiness of ripe bananas, cantaloupe, peaches, apricots, apples, kiwis, and avocados. Sometimes I catch myself sniffing a pineapple, passion fruit, or mango, which conjures up memories from far-away places with strange sounding names, which I called, at one time or another, home.

Talk about exotic spices! When eating a dish someone else cooked, I like to guess the seasoning it contains. Can you identify—using only your nose—vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, anise, fennel, black pepper (prepare to sneeze), oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, mint, basil, and parsley?

Walk into a movie theater and close your eyes as you smell the hot buttered popcorn and warm pretzels. What else do you savor? I’m sure I have radar for all things chocolate! Have you been in See’s Candy shop lately? Yummm.

Step inside an old-fashioned bakery where various types of bread are baking, alongside cinnamon rolls, donuts, biscuits and scones, fruit pies, pumpkin, lemon meringue, and pecan pies. If you’re like me, the scent alone brings to mind the unique texture and delight of each delicacy.

All this to say that some people, who don’t have a keen sense of smell, aren’t tuned in to food aromas. To them, warm garlic bread is like the iocane powder in The Princess Bride—odorless! Thus, they don’t spend time processing the olfactory input that, theoretically, has them salivating and on the way to impulsive, rather than mindful, eating. Know what I mean?

6 thoughts on “A Keen Sense of Smell

  1. Some may disagree, but I find that the smell is sometimes just as satisfying as the taste. I have gone years without chocolate and this was actually made easier by my making a point of smelling the wonderful aroma when others around me indulge in a brownie or chocolate bar. (Don’t worry, I definitely have my substitues!)
    And remember the now-extinct drink POSTUM? I think that the first whiff gives more enjoyment than just setting the stage for the taste. The taste is almost an afterthought!
    Thanks for your blog!

    1. And the overwhelming advantage of sniffing something that harms you vs. eating it is obvious. : ) Thanks for the thought, Laurie!

  2. What a sense-ual posting, Norma! You DO have a keen sense of smell. I was reflecting as you I read that perhaps mine is not so attuned as yours. And poor Dennis can’t smell a thing. Made me laugh about what I CAN smell: newsprint makes me sneeze, and theater popcorn reminds me of gym sox. But the rich aroma of coffee–mmmmmm, irresistible (even though I rarely drink it, just a soy latte once in a while). Thanks for a delightful read!

    1. Theater popcorn smells like gym sox?! Ewww! Don’t know if I’ll be able to eat it again, ha. I agree–there’s nothing like the rich aroma of coffee. Thanks for commenting, Judy!

  3. Actually, I’ve been thinking more of pleasant, wonderful smells since I read your post: the freshness of a breeze, a certain pungent-sweet smell put off by creekside bushes during the early summer, the smell of a redwood forest or a pine forest (very different), the smell of newly cut lumber, the smell of rain. Mmmmm. Trying to think of food smells I enjoy. Can’t even think of one. Maybe because I’m more visual about food? Weird. Further reflection required.

    1. Oooh, I love the smells of the forest, too, although I’m not sure I could distinguish between redwood and pine. Also like newly cut lumber and cedar chests. Thanks for bringing these to mind, Judy!

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