Thursday, March 13, 2008

My Favorite Smells

GrapefruitsI've heard from several places that your sense of smell is the one most closely allied with memory. I think it has something to do with proximity in the brain or something (I'm not a neurologist so that could all be bunk--who knows?) At any rate, here's a list of smells that I just LOVE. Some are pretty normal and will get some agreement and then there are a few that might give too much away and you'll be convinced I'm whacked.

Ah well, I'll take the risk.

1. Real Grapefruit. I love cooking with limes, when I cut them I always pause to take a sniff, and mandarin oranges are Christmas all over but my favorite citrus is grapefruit. I probably like the smell of a tree-ripened grapefruit because it reminds me of visiting my grandparents in Chandler, Arizona when I was younger. They had a tree in their back yard and Grandpa taught me how to eat a grapefruit properly--peeled and salted. They used to store the extras under their bed in boxes and the smell will always connect me to their house.

2. Potting soil. Cracking open a bag of this stuff and getting the familiar whiff of charcoal and peat is like going back to page in a book I've read many times before. It's the rituals of planting and preparing that get me going and somehow that potting soil triggers it. Odd.

Rosemary Topiary3. Rosemary. I have a little rosemary tree that I've trained into a topiary and the piney-woodsy-mediciney smell is addicting. I can't imagine what it's like to live in a place where it grows wild and you brush by it as you walk.

4. Plumeria. While we're on the subject of plants I've got to list plumeria. This flower smells just amazing and it's one of my favorite things about Hawaii. When I smell it I'm in the islands and I even feel warmer--I always take back extra flowers after a vacation just to save in the fridge and sniff at will.

Plumeria5. Line-dried clothing. Oh I've written about this before so I won't bore you here but this is the essence of summer.

6. Airports. I really get a kick from the smell of airports. It's a funny mix of cigarette smoke, cleaners, and other things I can't name--and it's not that I like those things normally but mixed together in that unique way they are very definitive. There's an "airport" smell just as there is a "new car" smell or a smell to each person's house. I think I like it because whenever I'm at an airport I'm full of anticipation, looking forward to travel or to meeting someone I love--that must be it. Either that or I was a smoker in a former life.

7. Ski resorts. Speaking of cigarettes this next smell is a little harder to define (and a little weirder) but it's a favorite none the less. When it's winter and it's not too cold, still below freezing but not so cold it couldn't snow, and there's a bit of sun and I'm outside sometimes the air smells just right so that it takes me back to days of skiing. Again, it's a touch of cigarette from somebody on the chair lift ahead of you catching a smoke on the way up plus the cold frost of winter and the smells of people that all mix together and creates the smell that reminds me of those fun days on the slopes. I was walking through the parking lot at Costco last week and caught a touch of it in the air and suddenly I was standing in line, waiting for my ride up the mountain.

8. Birch blossoms. Can I switch seasons here for a minute? There's a two or three day period each spring when all the birch trees bloom here. Well bloom isn't quite the right word, they don't have flowers but "leave" certainly isn't the right word so it'll have to do. Whatever, but it's the day when the leaves uncurl and the fresh sap it everywhere in the air and it tells my brain that I've done it--I've made it through another Alaskan winter and have three months of fabulous weather to look forward to. Of course I sneeze like crazy those two or three days but the smell is worth it.

9. Rain. Boy this is a great smell--and I think I like it all the more when it hasn't actually rained yet, it just smells like it's going to rain. Makes me feel like I can tell the future or something--Michelle the Omniscient or something like that.

10. Hospitals. Okay I've led you along for awhile and here's where I get weird--I know most people hate the smell of hospitals but it's all in the memory I suppose. To me, the hospital antiseptic smell reminds me of when my children were born and all the feelings that accompanied those events. Maybe if I'd had more experience with death and prolonged sicknesses hospitals wouldn't make me nostalgic they make me depressed but for now I'll just be glad for the experiences I've had.

11. Crayons. Tell me you don't take a sniff every time you open a box! Yea, I thought so.

12. Tomato plants. Not tomatoes--though, hey I love the smell of a pizza as much as the next pasta-provolone-and-pesto lovin gal--no, the plants themselves are what do it for me. They smell completely different from the fruit and I can't quite put my finger on how to describe them. Minty? No. Piney? No. But though I can't describe it I know it when I smell it and I love it. I'll sit in the sun on my back deck with the potted tomato plants next to me and I'll wrinkle the leaves occasionally just to get the aroma. Yum.

13. My dusty skin. This is probably just the weirdest thing but you know when you've been out in the sun for any length of time it does something to you and makes you smell a certain way? Maybe it's a bit of sweat or maybe the dust in the air or whatever (please don't tell me I'm the only one who smells this way) but if I come in and wash my hands and arms after working in the garden my skin gives off a certain smell, like its been baked. Even if I was outside the day before, when I wake up in the morning and go to take a shower the dusty smell is there when my hair gets wet. Okay that's just too personal but it's the official smell of summer and will always be a favorite.

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Heather said...

I love the smell of New York City. Specifically (or perhaps not) the smell by the ferry docks. I can sometimes smell it under the bridges in our city.

Takes me back to my childhood I guess.

Katherine said...

Tomato plants? Really?? I can't stand the smell of tomato leaves, though I put up with it for my love of fresh tomatoes.

I too love rosemary and am lucky enough to have 3 plants in the yard. One is about 3 feet high and maybe 5 feet wide, right on the way to the mailbox. I love to brush past it - my kids sometimes even nibble on it.

Deb - Mom of 3 Girls said...

What a great idea for a list! I love the smell of lilac, coffee (even though I hate the taste), and am with you on the smell of rain. Especially right after a nice spring shower... :)

Janet said...

fresh cut lumber
bread factories
the beach - yes, even the dead fish smell

An Ordinary Mom said...

What about the smell of wonderful chocolate :) ?!? Yum!

my4kids said...

I agree with you on some. I love the smell of rain, just before it rains when it's been a couple of days or so. Hmm except here that doesn't happen quite so much but it does. I love Plumeria also. I love the smell of clothes dried out on the line. Not very practical here though since it will probably start to rain the moment I walk back into the house.
My favorite smell of all? The ocean..

mumple said...

My kids' hair. Both smell like my dad--not the *dirty* smell, and not the shampoo smell either. That smell you get at the end of the day when you're not nasty sweaty-or greasy dirty.

It's just his smell--I remember it from when I was little and he'd lay down on the floor after supper and I'd snuggle up next to him to just watch TV.

It's hard to explain, and sometimes it hits me harder than others, but it makes me happy to think that this is proof that my dad "lives on" in my kids.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

We used to have a plumeria tree outside of our living room in our last apartment. It would perfume the entire side of the house.

I also adore pink jasmine which is currently in bloom here. I used to think there was no better smell than wisteria until I smelled pink jasmine.

And fresh cut grass brings me right back to New England. We have hardly any grass in SoCal, so I really miss that.

Babystepper said...

I'm with you on most of those, but I actually don't like the smell of line-dried clothing or dusty skin. They both smell very much the same to me, and I don't like that smell at all. Art's Grandma calls that smell "frug" and I have to say that suits it. =)

Loralee Choate said...

With the exception of the hospital, I LOVE all those smells. I was just thinking the same thing about the ski resorts this weekend.

Tide with Bleach and fabric softeners (I swear I could just sniff the laundry aisle of the grocery store for HOURS).

Sharpie markers.



Rubber cement.

Hmm...It's kind of a wonder I was never a huffer, huh?

J at said...

I love the smell of tomato plants as well. :) Also rain in the near future is a wonderful smell.

When I was a kid living in Fairbanks, we lived for a time with a couple, and the husband was a roofer. I loved them a great deal (it was mutual...they tried to figure out how to convince my mom to let them adopt me. ;) ) and ever since then, I love the smell of roofing tar. Even though it kinda makes me gag.

And driving along and getting a skunk smell doesn't bother me the way it should, either. Go figure.

Laura said...

Smells can really pull me in...fresh bread baking, my husband's old cologne, the fresh soft smell of a baby, lavender, coffee, molten chocolate, laundry dried outside!

What a great list! happy T-13!

Robin said...

Rosemary's definitely very high on my list too - because it's the smell of lice-free kids! Rosemary oil keeps them away - just a drop or two behind each ear and at the nape of the neck is a very effective preventative. My kids don't leave the house without it, and if lice are going around their class (which happens all too often in this hot climate) then they positively marinate in it LOL.

amber said...

I agree with several of those - so either you're not crazy or we both are. ;)

I would add the smell of marigolds because it takes me back to my childhood, at my grandma's house in CA. Also, because the dirt is different in CA than in TX, the smell of potting soil makes me think of the dirt I played in when I was very young.

Two of my favorite smells are hard to describe and put a finger on. Near the end of winter, you'll find a day with the first smell of 'spring' in the air. It's still cool, tomorrow could be freezing, but that day there is a breeze blowing in that smells...'warm' and 'green' and promises that spring is coming. I love that smell. Same thing for fall at the end of summer.

Thanks for this list - it was fun and brought back some memories! :)

e-Mom said...

I enjoyed this! A clever post. Plumeria is a favorite of mine too. :~D

Blessings, e-Mom @ Chrysalis

Kelly @ Love Well said...

Loved the whole list. It just made me smile and be happy.

I guess even the thought of certain smells works on me.

Life with the Lambs said...

I believe that if your theory is correct about memory sense power being linked to proximity to the brain then eyesight wins by an inch. :)

I know what you mean about smelling when it will rain. My husband makes fun of me because I can smell when it is going to snow.

Tami said...

Some of my favorites are rain, lime, lilacs and a wierd one for me is asphalt - it reminds me of chocolate milk and kindergarten. I say something to my husband everytime I smell it and he thinks it is wierd.

grace said...

You can say I'm strange but I love the smell of gasoline. Yikes...something's wrong with me. Great list,as usual.

WomensDaily said...

I hate the smell of tomato plants. I would have to say my favorite smell is certain mens cologne and sweet pea.

TAMY & the SGT said...

Eclectic mix of smells and really well described. Coffee, cinnamon, lilacs and rain are some of my favorites.

Anonymous said...

What a great idea! You got me going right into my favorite smells, many of them tied to some childhood memories:

the earth freshly ploughed
cow manure (yes!)
laundry boiling in my grandmother's huge laundry pot
chicken coop
my mother's perfume
fresh paint
my grandmother's old farmhouse

I could go on and on. This is so powerful!

My favorite one on your list is the line-dried clothes. This is yet another simple sensual pleasure that has almost disappeared from our daily lives. Thanks for re-introducing it here. Such a treat for children. And so much better for the environment. Dryers are some of the biggest polluters and consume tons of gas and electricity.
'Green Drop Project'

Lilibeth said...

spring smells are my favorite...except for fall smells...and Christmas smells. Summer only smells like sun block to me.
Spring is honeysuckle and lilac...although probably honeysuckle is closer to summer at that. Ah well, the dusty skin I can't really relate to, but the rain and prerain smell is simply my favorite and I also love burying my face in the pages of old books and breathing them in.

Anonymous said...

what a great list! i have to add freshly cut lawn to it... though its been a while since i've smelt it... waiting for the english summer!

Shannon said...

I just love this because I am a smell person for sure! I am not so sure about smelling "dusty" after being outside but I love the smell my kids get after spending hours outside. I always tell Jack that he smells like the great outdoors. Oh and I bought basil plant today and I just cannot get over how incredibly fresh basil smells!

Ter said...

hey there - I just wanted to let you know I featured your blog in my Thursday 13 today! ;)

And yes, you are a very weird "smeller"!

I don't know if it's because of my hearing loss, but I am very sensitive to smell and some smells make me physically ill, including some of the ones you mentioned in your post.

Anonymous said...

Ok, you had me until #6 & 10. But oddly enough I am with you on 13. SO you're not as weird as you think.

Phyllis Sommer said...

what a fun list. it's amazing how i could almost smell each of these things as i read them....our senses are such amazing things.

Look, Mom, Look! said...

Love the smells! I agree on the potting soil, tomato plants, the line dried clothes, rosemary and the dusty skin (especially on my kids). I also love the smell of bar soaps and I have to admit I love the smell of permanent markers more than anything. As for flowers, I can't wait for the Lilac bushes to bloom here in Michigan. My childhood home was completely surrounded by wild lilac bushes, pine trees and blackberries. There were days when you could walk outside and feel enveloped by the smell of lilacs.

pussreboots said...

Interesting list of smells. I grow rosemary on my balcony and use it much of my cooking. Happy TT.

Amber M. said...

So with you on plumeria...and tomato plants...I also LOVE the smell of the coffee aisle at the commissary. And I've never actually tasted it.

jubilee said...

I love the way my kids smell when they've been outside. Not the heat-of-the-summer-over ripe smell, just the I've-been-outside smell.
I also love the smell of a fair or carnival. Probably because as a kid this was one of the most exciting parts of the summer. Is that weird?

Shelli said...

I love the smell of rosemary too. I always snap off a twig and hold it up to mine and my little boy's nose. He might think I'm crazy, but I think he's catching on. Unfortunately, he is beginning to think he can snap off a bit of every plant in my yard!

luckyzmom said...

I love all the marvelous stories behind your smells. I have always been very sensitive to smells. Most of my favorites are pretty much run of the mill, not already mentioned, though, is oranges, strawberries, cantaloupe, daphne and the smelll of a pot roast in the oven. My favorite smell though is lilac.

Lori - Queen of Dirty Laundry said...

I know what you mean about the smell of the airport - I feel the same way about hotel rooms and even casinos!

And the smell of rain...yay!

My weird one is the smell of asphalt in summer time - reminds me of my teenage summers spent at Six Flags over Texas.

Great list!

LittleRadcliffes said...

One of my favorite smells is the wonderful smell of Disneyland!! You can smell the popcorn, churros, and all the other wonderful treats you find there. Love it. I love your site.

elena jane said...

oh those are fabulous...i can just imagine those smells by just reading what you wrote!! amazing :)

that airport smell always takes me back to heathrow airport in the 80s...

i love the smell of rain in the summertime. like freshly cut grass, it brings back memories of long ago summers....

what a fantastic post :)