When I was in third and fourth grades, my family lived in a tiny town on the plains of Colorado. The times were different back then, and I was old enough to be allowed to roam the town on Saturday afternoons without fear of anything bad happening to me beyond a skinned knee or hurt feelings from someone calling me a name.
I have lots of wonderful memories of playing on the high school football field, riding horses bareback with my friends who had horses, playing Barbies in the shady grass, drinking water from hoses in anybody's yard, buying penny candy and bubble gum at the little store. However, the memory that stands out most for me, was heading back home at supper time.
Nobody had air conditioners, so windows were left open. Also there were no restaurants in town, so meals were prepared at home. When the sun would begin it's dip down into the horizon, that was my signal to head home. As I'd pass a house, I could smell their supper being prepared. The salty spicy crispy smell of chicken frying made my mouth water. I could tell if someone was having pork chops and sauerkraut by the meaty, pungent, sour odor. Beans simmering had a tangy oniony aroma. Liver and onions smothered in brown gravy had a peculiar yet distinctive smell - and that one always made me hope it wasn't coming from my house. Swiss steak with the scent of beef simmering in stewed tomatoes along with the buttery waft of mashed potatoes always made my mouth water.
By the time I got home, I was ravenous. As I'd put up my bicycle, I'd try to figure out what Mama had cooking for our supper.
I always equated these delicious aromas with maternal love, family, chatter and laughter with the most important people in the world.
I miss that part of my past. Where I live now, in the middle of air conditioned suburbia, all houses are closed up tight. Many people don't cook like that anymore. The only place to get a whiff of something cooking is to drive along a thoroughfare lined with fast food restaurants, and that whiff most often smells of old rancid grease.
When I walk in my neighborhood on a Saturday evening, I occasionally pick up a hint of roses, honeysuckle, or freshly cut grass on the air, but seldom food (except on holidays where it's traditional to fire up the grill). There is, however, one scent that tickles my nose as it wafts out of houses - the overly sweet flowery aroma of dryer sheets. Pretty much, that's the dominant odor. It's the only sign that someone is home and that there is love in the house.
When my next door neighbor cooks, and they have a window opened a bit, I catch a whiff of their middle eastern food cooking, rich with aromatic spices like curry, cumin, cinnamon, and cloves and I'm taken back to my childhood. It's sort of like an olfactory glimpse of a Norman Rockwell painting kind of experience.
So what about you?
Have you noticed the permeating odor of dryer sheets coming from homes in your neighborhood?
Do aromas take you back in time? If so, where and when?
Do you have memories of your grandmother's kitchen? What did it smell like?
What are your favorite scents when you enter a house?
How does the smell of food cooking affect your mood?
Labels: Memoir Monday