Favourite Tastes and Smells: Making my list and checking it twice..
The other day, much to my delight, someone asked me what my favourite foods were. I got thinking.. so many things came to mind, it was overwhelming. I focused more carefully, tasting in my head, categorizing, prioritizing, and continuously revising my list. Days after I had answered that straightforward question, I was still in the process, hanging on to the pure pleasure of it. Although it is obvious that food is perpetually on my mind, the truth is I don’t indulge in so much food porn these days, my official list hadn’t been updated in my while. In real life, the simple question of what your favourites are is something that only really comes up when you’re getting to know a new boyfriend or maybe a new friend who is a foodie.. In any case, it’s a great conversation to have, even if it’s only with yourself. As the famous saying goes, ‘an unexamined life isn’t worth living’, right? Reminding yourself of the things you love underlines that love, and the good life in general. It's good karma to be grateful.
So go for it. Think happy thoughts. What are your favourites?
New tastes may come along all the time, but it takes a while and many hits before one can make the top ten, so for most of us, the foods we identify with the most lean towards old-time comfort foods. As I discussed in my Falling in and out of love piece not too long ago, I’m less easily seduced by the new, fancy and trendy these days, and so mine are mostly on the humble side too : Arroche de mer (sea spinach) with garlic, tomatoes with olive oil and fresh ricotta on black bread, any good bread and butter, old fashioned ham, grilled cheese, BLT, sausage sandwich with choucroute or any good sandwich in fact (even cucumber sandwiches on white bread), green olives, pickles, caponata, scrambled eggs, rice pilaf, fried rice or steamed rice with egg and garnishes, Peking duck, duck confit, consommé, tonkinese soup, nordic shrimp, garlic and chilli pasta with smoked duck, poutine, eggplant curry, buckwheat crepes, caviar, blueberries, almond croissants, black licorice, coffee..
Seeing that I was having so much fun with this, after deciding on my favourite tastes, it only seemed natural to progress to my favourite smells. Memorable tastes are unique, complex things, all built on multiple sensory and mental inputs, and inseparable from our life experience. Smell is something slightly more elemental, although just as closely associated with life experience, and complex in itself (every identifiable scent comprising hundreds of chemical compounds). But still, taste is smell and then some. One’s favourite smells should be an even more personal thing then, closer to our true identity. I wanted to dig deeper. And I enjoy making lists, can you tell?
I really only got going later on that night. You see, lately I have been haunted by phantom smells when in an otherwise odour free zone, often when suffering from insomnia. When my mind is being its hyperactive self, it seems that my nose neurons have decided to join the party. One night, lying in bed, I could smell roast chicken like I had one coming out of the oven next to my bed. Weird, I know, especially that I don’t even particularly love chicken (but I had walked through a chicken cloud that day). Sometimes, odours stick with me. In any case, here, instead of counting sheep to coax myself towards sleep, I decided to try to make myself conjure up my favourite scents to forget about the chicken, which got me back to my favourites list making.
The scents I was after: Fresh coriander. Fresh wild ginger (think Thrills gum). Fresh air (ie. Laundry off the clothesline or the smell of your kids when they come in from playing outside). Wait, these are all in the revitalizing category (which I didn’t necessarily need to bring up at this point), but to be fair, they are my tops.. Then there’s Woodsmoke. Forest floor. Lavender. Vanilla (but only a real pod infusing in cream). Fennel braising. Sweet peppers roasting. A ripe melon, a ripe peach. Citrus peel. Black peppercorn. Green tomato plant smell. Porcini, most boletus in dried form. Bacon in the skillet and coffee brewing. A young wine, a good Beaujolais or Burgundy. Green tea incense (my only fake smell). Ok maybe not, there’s magic markers and just about every men’s cologne on the market.
I could go on forever with the smells I love, I am just so touched by my sense of smell. Of course, that means I can’t ignore the many smells I hate, although this imagery can’t be good for my sleep either: rotten potato, valerian, veal stock, sour vegetables, sumac, seal meat or seal boots, manure, frying oil (McDonalds and co.), the corner of Decarie and Sherbrooke (which combines that old fryer oil smell and that of gas), mothballs, mildew, patchouli, bleach, new car interior..
Ok enough. I’m beginning to feel a little indulgent and childish with this endless exercise. Fun stuff though, (lower) brain candy for a foodie. Not necessarily a successful sleep aid, but a good daydream and break from the more challenging, heavier thoughts of real life as a grown up.. I better get back to that upper brain stuff for now.