I have read many times that the sense of smell has the most power over our thoughts and our memories. When contemplating that, you should keep in mind that somewhere between seventy and ninety percent of what we perceive as taste is actually smell. That is why you feel as though you cannot taste anything when you have a head cold.
Our nasal cavity and our mouth are very interconnected. Whatever goes into our mouths is going to release its scent compounds into our nasal cavities, and therefore our olfactory glands—the glands that do the smelling. That explains how we can say that one thing tastes like another thing smells. I have been known to say something supposedly lemon-flavored tastes like furniture polish. I have never tasted furniture polish, but I have smelled plenty of it.
If you want to take an instant journey back to a part of your past, find a food that fits the time to which you want to travel. I recently had this experience at a cafe where I had a slice of lemon chess pie with my lunch. Chess pie is one of the favorite pies in Middle Tennessee where most of my dad’s family lives. My dad had nine sisters, all of them outstanding cooks. Tasting that lemon chess pie took me right back to visiting their homes, the feelings, the sights, the other smells, and the other tastes. Once I made a lemon dessert for a friend and upon taking the first bite, he said he was right back at his grandmother’s house in the summertime, hearing the chickens fuss and the squeaky windmill barely turning in the summer heat.
We are in the final stages of some renovations and additions to our home. Part of the addition included the use of some freshly-milled red cedar lumber. The installation of the cedar was the last thing the carpenters did before they packed up and moved out. I pulled a chair up in the new room and inhaled that scent, feeling that all was right with the world. My grandfather in Tennessee had a red cedar chest that served as his table from which he led his nightly Bible study. He also smelled of cedar because he was constantly whittling on a red cedar stick. During his Bible studies, I was usually half asleep on my bed on the couch, listening to my parents and my grandfather talk and pray. What a pleasant feeling to recreate!
Not all of my examples are so pleasant. Last night we were driving back from Brownwood and passed what was obviously a very freshly killed skunk. That smell took me back to the house my husband and I lived in after we were first married. One night our dog chased a skunk up under our bedroom floor and cornered him right under my closet. I was teaching school at the time and quickly earned a reputation as being the skunk lady.
This Spring has brought another smell-related experience I am sure I will remember the rest of my life. There is some type of flower blooming in the field Southeast of my house that smells heavenly! I think it may be a small purple flower, since that is all I can see blooming out there. Since that is the direction of the prevailing breeze, every time I walk out my front door, I am greeted by that heavenly scent. Now that the weather has suddenly become hot and dry, I am sure this experience is coming to a close—so I will sign off now and go soak it up!