The best food smells

Over at Epi-log, I noticed that Tanya Wenman Steele was getting a lot of traffic when she asked for foods people hate, and I thought I would post about another very powerful part of the food experience - smell. Several years ago I had an incredible sinus infection that affected my smell and hearing for a couple of weeks. Without the sense of smell, almost everything tasted the same. Think about your childhood. Some of your most powerful food memories also involve smell. You might remember the smell of baking bread or cookies, or the smell of cabbage rolls. It might be the smell of Friday's fried fish, or banana bread, or a pot of simmering spaghetti sauce that evokes a feeling of comfort and warmth, or nostalgia. I'm going to share mine and invite you to share the food smells that take you back .

1) Roasting Turkey - This has got to be my personal favorite. I would buy an air freshener that smelled like that!

2) Frying bacon - I guarantee that this is the smell that will get everyone out of bed in the morning, particularly if you are camping. Just smelling it will make your mouth water!

3) Coffee - I know it is not a food, but this is another smell that will pull people to your kitchen or campfire. I will never forget the first time we went camping and we took a speckled-ware percolator with us (we draw the line at instant coffee) and when our coffee was percolating all the people on the surrounding campsites came out of their tents sniffing the air like animals.

4)Baking bread- This is one we don't smell much at our house but I remember my Grandmother McKinney baking loaf after loaf on the weekends, and the smell was incredible. I do make a loaf from a recipe in The Joy of Cooking called Brioche Loaf Cockaigne. It doesn't need to be kneaded and it has that wonderful yeasty smell.

5)Garlic - I love the smell of garlic. If you have ever made 40-clove garlic chicken you know what I am talking about. It fills your whole house with the smell of roasting chicken and garlic and wine- pure heaven!

6) Applesauce cake - My Grandmother Knighting used to make these incredible applesauce cakes with black walnuts that she baked in heavy cast-iron bundt pans. I have never been able to recreate her recipe that came out as dark as brown bread all moist and full of plump raisins, cloves and cinnamon. That was the only thing I would ask her for at Christmas and I would eat it slice by slice for a week or two after Christmas.

What are the food smells that take you back?


Kristen said…
Coffee is one... it always takes me into my Grandma's house where there always seemed to be coffee brewing.

The smell of nutmeg makes me think of a scratch and sniff Winney the Pooh book I had when I was really young.

The smell of garden green beans... dirt maybe? Takes me back to the days of snapping beans with my mom.

Great post!
Susan said…
My Grandmother's Italian pizzella cookies will forever hold a special place for me. The anise fragrance would permeate her whole house.
s'kat said…
Chocolate chip cookies baking! Hands-down, best smell ever.
jenjen said…
I have to agree with all of your selections, and even though I have never smelt your granny's applesauce cake I will have to take your word for it. Great picks!

Another beautiful food smell is vanilla. To me it is almost intoxicating.
Deborah Dowd said…
Kristen- your smells underscore how important memories are to food smells.
Susan- I am not a big fan of anise, but I know people who would kill for pizzelles
S'kat- That is why they recommend baking CC cookies before your open house
JenJen- I once read a story that of all fragrances, vanilla is the one that universally turn men on (is that good or bad?)
i agree about the coffee and the fried bacon - and the roast pork my mum used to make, probably the equivalent of your turkey! also fried apple slices in tempura batter... yum!
Ben Luck said…
Dear Food Smell Lovers,

There is a cooking sauce on the market called Gaucho Green Chimmi-Churri that has a smell that would lure the Sirens on to Ulysses' boats. It's an Argentine-inspired brew of parsley, cilantro, wine vinegar, honey, Tabasco peppers, teas, tamarinds, garlic and a few other spices that when warmed and on a grill fire breathes out an aroma that makes instant friends downwind. Great and alluring smell, across many cultures and nationalities. Plus, it gets better, like grest red wines, in the bottles and is vintage dated.

Ben Luck