It is said that smell is one of memory’s strongest triggers. After winter’s long siege, a crisp, sunny Spring day blends together damp soil, sprouting greenery, and a clean-up cocktail of small gasoline engines, gas grills and burning brush. Those smells offer hope of a new day. On the flip side, a fall day blends decaying leaves, the last cut of the season’s grass clippings with the smoky wafts from small backyard fire pits. These smells may trigger thoughts of accomplishments, anticipated holidays, and the long winter that lies ahead.
My favorite cooking aroma memories are of Sunday’s chicken frying in cast iron pan, an apple pie baking or waking up to the smell of turkey roasting overnight in the oven on Thanksgiving morning. I even like the smell of potatoes boiling. You just can’t beat the smell of hot starchy water. All are comforting food memories.
As a young adult, when I moved into my own apartment, I enjoyed cooking and creating new dishes, such as my famous (in my mind) plum/chicken stir fry or the truly unique chicken liver lasagna. Even though my apartment was the size of small shoebox, I often invited people over for dinner and we had lots of fun. But when eating alone there was something missing. One day as I took an early evening walk, I realized what it was that was .
As I walked along, I heard the kitchen noises of pots clanging, water running, and a faint sizzling sound coming from my neighbors’ Victorian kitchens. Loud conversations and the evening news blaring added to the chaos. On that night, my nose captured the aroma of pork chops frying. While I do not particularly like pork chops, they smelled really good that evening. I thought of how many evenings as a child, we had sat down to pork chops, mashed potatoes and apple sauce. A wave of sadness enveloped me as I realized one more thing I was missing by living alone. You never come home to the smell of dinner cooking. Even greasy, tough pork chops were better than eating alone.
There is a big difference in the aroma when you are alone in the kitchen cooking than when you come home to a meal that is already cooking. The closest a single person can get to that feeling is with a crock pot meal. I’m sure that feeling carries forward to the taste when you sit down to a single place setting. To compensate, we singles eat in front of the TV, eat more than we should and more often than necessary polish of another glass of wine or beer just to make ourselves feel better.
Sharing is so important, even if it is only a smell. Be sure to share a smell this Thanksgiving. Hey, it’s going to be a contentious day in some dining rooms, maybe a smell can turn into a smile.