Remember when you were a kid and could just smell when something was calling your name? In my case, it was always with my mom’s mom. My grandmother was one hell of a cook. She made homemade biscuits, pies, cookies, cakes, canned all kinds of vegetables and jams, and everything she made was on a cast iron wood stove.
Oh yeah. The smell of the dried apples that she dried off a metal tin and blanket, that baked through the sun still lingers in my mind. The aroma of blackberry jam with such a succulent aroma that is almost impossible to identify. Her red velvet cakes were legendary. Topped with a homemade cream cheese icing that oozed perfection. Her poud cakes were the kinds that brought in great auction bids for the church. Almost all of it ceased when she died.
I still remember helping her make buttermilk biscuits from scratch. They would come out so hearty and full of love that it would make your mouth water for more. I think that’s one of the many reasons that I miss her and her cooking. Her talents did not rub off on my mother or me. I can cook a few things but my grandmother could put the others in my family to shame. She wouldn’t have made it as a chef but as a home cook she was off the charts.
Her sloppy joe’s were legendary. There was just enough seasoning and juice flowing throughout the meals to make you crave more. She wasn’t a huge fan of pizza. As far as I can remember, she never really ate italian. She was a true home cook. Almost everything she got she grew. Her beans, peas, and vegetables all came from her garden. She didn’t have to purchase many things from the grocery store other than Crisco and buttermilk. She got just about everything from her farm.
So now that I’ve made your mouths water a little, why did I write this blog? I suppose in some ways it helps me to remember the things that were calming to me back then. I love the saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Well, I don’t know about all of you but I don’t think it applies just to men. I think most of us are affected that way. We are usually creatures of habit. Comfort foods are the one thing that while they may not always be great for us, they do tend to bring us comfort by indulging in the forbidden oasis of heaven even if it’s only one bite at a time.
When I was in Elementary School, I remember our class went on a field trip to Old Salem. We watched as the local guides were dressed in the colonial attire, cooked on stoves that most of the generations today couldn’t name much less know how to operate, and had the opportunity to indulge in the tastes of older and much more forgotten times. The cinnamin sugar bread that was prepared was unlike anything I had ever tasted. It had a soft, decadent center with quite a bit of sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon topped for it’s caky icing. When you took a bite of it, it truly melted in your mouth. I haven’t had anything like it since then. I’ve had some tasty desserts but none that I can recall quite like that.
As I got older, I was able to go more places and taste different types of food. When I was fifteen, I was given the opportunity to explore most of Europe for fifteen days. I enjoyed all kinds of different delectible treats but other than the equisite chocolate liquors that I tasted, I think the dish that stands out the most was the ice cream liquor that I scarfed the entire thing down and got so intoxicated that I could barely walk. I didn’t weigh very much at the time and liquor and me didn’t get along well because in the states I wasn’t allowed to drink unlike in Europe where I was. That took a little getting used to. The chefs along the way prepared different meals in different countries. I remember the smells in Germany of bakers and different kinds of meats and cheeses. Cheese is a very big business all over Europe. The different types of vast and delicious. There are various kinds of goat cheese as well as the other dairy assortments. But each one has a unique scent and it is glorious.
I truly wish I was a better cook than I am. I am a whiz with a crock pot and can mix up some killer dishes with it. The scents that linger in my kitchen are varied because the dishes I create are varied. Much depends on the mood I’m in and how many people I’m cooking for. I’m still a picky eater but I love the smell of food. When I was a baby you could put just about anything in my mouth and I’d eat it. After a while, that changed. I’m just now getting back out of my comfort zone and trying new foods and finding that my palate has changed again. Although don’t get your hopes up. While I love the smell of coffee, I don’t think I will ever acquire the taste for it. I’ve tried multiple times.
Some of you are not as gaga over food as you are over scented candles and oils. Each of them brings you a little peace of paradise. I love candles too. The problem for me is that as I’ve gotten older, it’s more difficult for me to be around a lot of strong candles because the scents from them can often be overpowering. That isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy them because I love to burn candles. I just have to be a little more cautious about it nowadays.
Flowers can provide memories of scents and aromas too. I truly love gardenias. They are my favorite flower because the gardenia smells like a clean rain, with a crisp aroma that reminds me of the newness of life. It has the ability to make me think of standing on the top of a mountain taking in the wonder and beauty of the flowers and plants that grow wild with the unsmistakeable scent of the mountains. There’s also nothing to me like the smell of fresh cut grass. It can be overpowering but I love the freshness of it. Certain colognes and perfumes can leave lasting memories and some can be so pungent that the only place they should go is in the back of the memory as never want to try again. While there are other scents that make us feel loved, secured, and desired.
It’s memories like those of the smells and scents that remind me that life is full of new adventures. We have to be open to trying new things and letting people in. We have to stop living in fear and see what else is out there to be discovered. I found some recipes for some Chicken Marsala that I’m going to try out tonight and see if it’s good. For once, I’m not going to use the crock pot and see what kinds of scent will linger in the house. Hopefully, it will be one of a pleasing aroma that will create a new memory for me to treasure.