Senses: Smell

I’m grateful for the sense of smell. I know several people who have lost it to Covid, some temporarily, others for longer, going on six months. One friend is always hungry; another is gaining weight in constant search of flavor. Sautéing onions this evening for Mushroom & Beet Green Panisse, I savored their aroma, and thought with sadness of all those who have lost this vital sense for short or long term.

I know some other people who have lost their sense of smell for years at a time from other unusual ailments. It saps them. Scent is so essential in our nourishment, our sense of taste. So I’m grateful for the sense of smell, for frying onions, baking bread (saved by the scent from burning this morning as I dove again into Apple tech purgatory for a few more hours); grateful for all the aromas of cooking and the flavors they enhance. Once again grateful for recipes online: just type in what you’ve got and get some ideas. I’m grateful I had mushrooms, beet greens, and chickpea flour in fridge and pantry. Grateful for supportive friends and community.

Adding sliced portobellos gradually so as to not crowd them…
… then chopped beet greens with spices tossed on top til wilted…
…mixed well into panisse (chickpea flour and water) on the stove, then pressed into a pan to cool…
…cut into slices and fried: crispy and light outside, creamy and delicate inside, absolutely delicious. Such a simple food, served on top of romaine, with a dab of mayo and a sprinkle of spiced salt, scent and flavor like a five star restaurant, in about half an hour right here at home.
I’m grateful for Stellar’s sense of smell, too, which often leads the way.

6 thoughts on “Senses: Smell

  1. i have very little sense of smell; been that way my whole life. there are times i’m jealous of those of you who can smell, and other times i’m grateful i have a poor sense of smell 🙂

  2. Dear Rita,

    (this is long and chatty and not especially consequential, so feel free to wait and read it when you have time and bandwidth…)

    Your sense-of-smell post struck a chord with me. Actually they almost always do, but this one even more than usual, so I can’t resist responding. I’ve been blessed with an acute sense of smell that richly colors my daily experience. I don’t take this for granted, especially not in the time of Covid. Chuck started losing his own sense of smell in his 50s and now has very little left—a deficit that robs him of the nuances of food flavors, among other pleasures & discernments. (This tendency runs among the males in his family; his father had it too.)

    I’ve long been fascinated by the aesthetics and science of scent. I devoured biophysicist & perfume aficionado Luca Turin’s books *The Secret of Scent *and *Perfumes* when they came out. More recently, I read Alexandra Horowitz’s *Being a Dog: Following the Dog into a World of Smell*, which maybe you’ve read? It’s an entertaining narrative exploration of dogs’ olfactory capacities and the extent to which humans can & can’t replicate them.

    From Horowitz’s book I learned about a magical box of 54 vials of smell-training aromas, handmade in France primarily for wine-industry people, called *Le Nez du Vin*. (The author’s husband surprised her with one while she was researching human olfactory capabilities.) I saved and bought myself a kit in its pretty slip-covered book-shaped box—one of my best splurges ever—and spent the next several weeks working my way through the vials, more or less one scent per morning. I’d uncap a vial, sniff it, and write about it–sensations, associations, attempts to guess what it might be–before looking at the card that identifies the smell and what wines it’s characteristic of. I’ve now acquired *Le Nez du Café *and look forward to working my way through that one, too.

    Chuck and I have friends with an organic, dry-farmed, off-grid vineyard and olive orchard, Condor’s Hope, in the arid Cuyama Valley, in northern Santa Barbara County. We’ve been there many times to help them and their community of friends & former students with grape and olive harvests and prunings, and we’ve led a couple of weekend writing-&-art retreats there too. They also created an organization, Community Agroecology Network (CAN), that works with coffee-growing cooperatives in Mexico & Central America to develop sustainable growing practices & strengthen their communities and sell their product directly to customers in the US. Once pandemic restrictions aren’t so much an issue, I’m hoping to lead a workshop with them at Condor’s Hope on scent and writing, including wine tasting and coffee-cupping sessions.

    There’s an article in the February 1st issue of the *New Yorker*, “Nose Dive,” reviewing some new books about smell. I’ve only just started reading it but it looks interesting.

    Thanks for the post that launched these ramblings!

    Love, Sarah

    p.s. No hurry on returning our puzzles or sending another one of yours. I’ll look forward to it but am in no rush.

    • sarah, thanks so much for this. what a great assortment of resources you offer us in this missive! i’m sure others will enjoy checking out some of them as much as i will. *Le Nez du Vin” sounds like a fascinating gift to give yourself. are your osmic reflections printed anywhere you’d care to share with Morning Rounds? or are they perhaps in an upcoming book? i dearly hope that one day i can join one of your events at Condor’s Hope . xoxo

      rita hines clagett writer, photographer, artist


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