Wednesday, July 14, 2010


"When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered· the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls· bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory."
~Marcel Proust The Remembrance of Things Past

Like most people, I connect many memories to taste and smell. Memories from my childhood or those from more recent years: wonderful times I get to relive. For me, smell is a big memory trigger. Here are some of my favorites:

Coppertone Cocoa Butter --- The mere thought or smell of this takes me back to childhood trips to the beach with my family, when we were slathered with this, like little turkeys ready to bake. Obviously, I grew up in the pre-SPF era. *g*

Perfumes and cologne -- I love perfume. In fact, I wear it everyday. It's a basic part of my toilette, like deodorant. Yet, my memories aren't connected to scents that I have worn. My mother-in-law always smelled fabulous. Over the years, she wore many different perfumes, but the one I associate with her is Estee Lauder's Youth Dew. A couple of months ago I smelled that scent while I was in an elevator, and there was no one there but my sister and I. I like to think my mother-in-law (who passed away in 2006), was coming by to visit.

When my husband and I started dating in 1986, he wore Halston 1-12, and boy, did he smell sexy! It was "his" scent for years, and then he tried other colognes---and he still smelled yummy---but I missed that Halston. Well, it wasn't easy to find anymore, but I love a challenge. My hubby's signature scent is now at hand, and oh, how I love it! He still occasionally wears something different, but Halston 1-12 always brings back special memories of when we fell in love.

Fish and Chips -- When I was 14 years old, I went to England and Scotland for a month...without my parents. It was organized through a camp in North Carolina, and there were six of us, three boys and three girls ranging from 14 to 16 years old, and we had one chaperone who was 22. Can you say fun?! At one point during the trip, we each stayed with a British family for a few days, and my host family introduced me to the delightful taste of fish and chips. Not just any ol' fish and chips, but the ones you get from a street vendor, wrapped in a newspaper cone. Walking along the street in the cool night air eating the hot and salty treat. The steam rising from the fish as I carefully take a bite. Add some malt vinegar and you have perfection. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

Spices -- One of the bonuses of being married to a naval officer (my husband retired in 2007 after 21 years) is the opportunity to travel. We were fortunate enough to live overseas twice; the first foreign duty station was Bahrain. Bahrain is a small island off the coast of Saudi Arabia. Even though it is a Muslim country, there are many British and European expatriates, so it's pretty westernized. One of my favorite memories is the first time we went to the souk---the open air market---most particularly, the spice souk. Imagine being surrounded by dark, aromatic, exotic scents---practically every spice imaginable. One whiff of coriander, curry, or sumac, and I am instantly transported to the spice souk and the heat and humidity thickening the air. A little bit of the foreign and mysterious to "spice" up my every day life.

Zuppa di Cozze -- In Italian this translates to mussel soup. Oh, but it is so much more than that! We lived in Naples, Italy from 2003 to 2005, and I'm sure you can imagine the amazing food we ate while we were there. Yum! I had never eaten mussels before we moved to Italy. They just never appealed to me. Then I was served zuppa di cozze, and a love affair was born. Mussels cooked with white wine and garlic, and served with crusty Italian bread to soak up the juice. Oh. My. Gawd! If I go to an Italian restaurant now and there are mussels on the menu, I most definitely partake and enjoy every bite. But I'm still waiting to go back to Italy to where my love affair began. Delizioso!

Thanks for joining me on my trip down memory lane. All that reminiscing has made me very hungry! LOL

How about you? Tell me what tastes and smells bring back memories.



  1. This is going to sound so strange but I am going to tell it anyway. The smell of leather takes me back to shopping for school, shoe stores used to smell like leather, they don't anymore but they used to. I lived in the country so shopping for school clothes was a trip to the city for us.

    Another scent, uh, rubber, like on tires?? Yeah, dad used to work an extra job at a gas station and on Saturdays he took me with him (before I figured out I was a girl), and the smell of tires sets that memory off big time.

  2. Gannon
    What lovely memories and I totally agree I can be out somewhere and I smell something that will bring back meories.
    When I was a school we used to use a paste (glue) called perkins paste and it had a distinctive smell they don't make it anymore but here and there I will smell something like it and it takes me back to my school days and of course apple pie cooking in an oven always reminds me of my Mum who we lost 8 years ago.

    Dianna I can relate to that leather smell when we were shopping for school way back and yes very rarely smell it now.

    Have Fun

  3. Gannon - you've lived so many exciting places - how wonderful and what great 'scent' memories you have.

    Scents definitely play a huge part in my memory bank.

    The smell of cinnamon reminds me of cool October days sitting at the kitchen table having breakfast with my family. The smell of fresh cut grass reminds me of summer picnics and the smell of a wood burning fire brings me to a time of my life with much love and laughter.

  4. Dianna, I love the smell of leather. Love your memory of your dad and the smell of tires.

  5. Helen, we used paste in school, too. I don't think it's around anymore. The smell of Elmer's glue still reminds me of school. :-) pie. What a lovely memory to associate with your mum.

  6. Marisa, I do feel lucky to have lived in some wonderful places. When I was growing up in Florida---in a small town---I would never have guessed the places I would go.

    Your "scents" are some of my favorites. I often burn cinnamon scented candles. There is something so comforting and homey about the smell. While I don't want to mow the grass, it's definitely the smell of summer. *g*

    And a wood burning of my favorite scents in the world!

  7. Gannon, what a neat post for today, thanks!

    Cherry pie--Makes me remember Cherry Picking Time at Gram and Gramps' farm. We wore our oldest of old clothes and listened to tunes on the radio. After picking and then pitting the cherries, Gram would literally hose us down to clean us up! After a change of clothes, we had great meal that Gram had cooked.

    Easter Eggs--The Great Easter Egg Hunt at Gram and Gramps'. Each of the granddaughters (5 of us) would boil and color a dozen eggs and we each had our own section of the pasture in which to find the eggs. Shouts and laughter rang out all over the countryside, I'm sure.

    Homemade Bread/Cinnamon Rolls/Danish Coffee Cake--When I was in jr. high and high school, my mom got on a "health kick" and made our own bread. Warm and smothered with butter, yum! (Not exactly a health kick, huh?) As for the rolls and coffee cake (which is really a large cinnamon roll, really), my mom makes awesome baked goods and hers a melt-in-your-mouth-delicious.

    Sweet Honesty, the perfume---Grandma N. gave us a bottle every Christmas. I'm not too crazy about it today, but bought my daughter a bottle for Christmas! LOL

  8. Great blog, Gannon! I could almost smell the spices as you were describing the souk!

    My memories are more closely tied to sounds but a few smells that take me back are Old Spice (my dad always wore it when I was a little girl and it will forever be associated with him), Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men (the late dh's signature scent) and pipe tobacco (I'm immediately taken back to childhood and my grandpa).

  9. Lovely post, Gannon! That tea-dipped-madeleine-moment in Swann's Way is a wonderful, evocative scene. Sensory memories giftwrap our pasts, don't they?

    The smell of wild honeysuckle has a definite Proustian effect for me. One good whiff and I hear the laughter of a dozen children rising above the buzz of adult conversation and the squeak of the ice-cream freezer as it is turned more and more slowly. I see the purple twilight and the dance of lightning bugs. I taste the first bite of cold sweetness stolen from the paddle just after it's lifted from the freezer. I feel the tenderness of my mother's arm around my shoulder and the security of my father's presence as he walks behind us, carrying my younger brother. I anticipate the comfort of a soapy bath and nightly prayers and the smell of clean, line-dried sheets as I fall asleep. A twinge in my right knee recalls me to the present, but the lingering fragrance of the honeysuckle reminds me that for a few heartbeats I have been transported back to the early summer evenings of my childhood.

  10. What a wonderful blog, Gannon! And what an adventurous life you've had. :)

    One taste memory that's always stayed with me is white peaches during the summer. The peaches were just so sweet and juicy and delicious, and always reminds me of going to the markets to buy them, and it always reminds me of summer.

    When my family visited London and Paris a few years ago, in order to save money, we'd to go local supermarkets, bakeriers etc to make sandwiches, instead of going to restaurants to eat. It was simple-ham, or whatever deli mean we got, lettuce, cumcumbers, tomatoes, and Thousand Island dressing. Everytime I have a sandwich or salad with Thousand Island dressing, it reminds me of the trip and all the sandwiches we ate!

    When I was in law school, I would often get up too late to have breakfast before leaving the house, so I would always stop by one of the food trucks near campus before class, and get either a blueberry muffin or a sausage and egg sandwich. Every time I have either of those things, it always reminds me of law school.

    As for scents, anything that reminds me of my grandmother's cooking is a good thing! It always takes me back to my grandmother's dinner tabe. If only her skills had passed down to me. ::Sigh::

  11. Deb, my hubby used to go to Traverse City, Michigan with his grandparents to the Cherry Festival. It's one of his fondest memories...and that includes the cherry pie his grandmother would make.

    My sisters and I used to dye Easter eggs with my grandma. We dyed dozens, and my grandma would polish them with vegetable oil till they were shiny and perfect. Then she would place them all in a huge basket before we would hide them. Thanks for reminding me of another great childhood memory. :-)

    I can almost smell and taste the bread and cinnamon rolls your mother made. Yum!

    Sweet Honesty--I haven't thought about that one in awhile. My first perfume was Love's Baby Soft. I can still see it and smell it---light pink and powdery. Ah, youth. LOL

  12. PJ, sound is definitely a memory trigger--mostly songs. Why is it I can remember all the words to a song I haven't heard in years, but I can't remember what I had for breakfast yesterday? LOL

    Old Spice---I think most of our dads wore that at some point. Now, it's making a comeback. I love the new commercials!!

    I love the smell of pipe tobacco. My papaw smoked a pipe for a brief period of time, but the smell still reminds me of him.

  13. Sensory memories giftwrap our pasts, don't they?

    Very true, Janga. Thank you for sharing your lovely childhood memory with us. I remember picking the honeysuckle blossoms to sip the drop of nectar left behind. The heat of a Southern summer night, playing outside with my sisters and friends, my parents calling us inside and us begging for just "five more minutes": precious memories of an innocent time.

  14. Lisa, there's nothing like a juicy peach on a hot summer's day, is there?

  15. Wonderful post, Gannon! Smells do it for me to -- they always transmit me back to a specific memory.

    You mentioned fish. When I smell fried fish I am always taken back to my Grandparents small little town and the annual fish fry done by the local Lions Club. My Grandpa was always near the fryer and Grandma was always at the table with all the homemade pies.

  16. Ah, Gannon, what a beautiful post. One that brought back memories of when I was a child and would spend the summers with both sets of grandparents. One of my grandmothers always smelled lightly of perfume while my other grandmother always smelled like flour, since she baked biscuits daily. One of my grandfathers used to smoke a pipe and I remember that smell fondly as well. Thanks for sharing your memories with us and for reminding me of some of mine! :)

  17. Buffie, I'll bet those fish fries were good...and the pies even better! Thanks for sharing the memory.

  18. Andrea, I just love to hear about everyone's memories. We have a lot that involve our grandparents. I sure do miss mine!

  19. Gannon what a wonderful post!! Thank you!
    My Grandfather owned his own butcher shop in Whitestone, NY when I was growing up. We spent a lot of time there. So the smell of bleach and sawdust brings me back to the shop. Everynight Grandpa would clean EVERYTHING with bleach and the floor got a fresh sprinkling of sawdust.
    Perfume is as important to me as to you. The smell of Chanel #5 and Heaven sent remind me of my Mother. I wear the Chanel now but the Heaven Sent is hard to find.
    The smell of fresh baked bread, peaches and cigar smoke remind me of my Tante Alma and Uncle Adolf's house. Tante Alma and I would make the bread and Uncle Adolf would peel and slice the peaches for us to eat with the bread in the morning. Of course he always smoked a big cigar.
    The smell of brill cream (anyone else remember that?) reminds me of my Dad when I was young, and how dapper he always looked when he went into the city to go to work. I loved seeing my Dad dressed up to go in to work--it is a shame men no longer wear hats (fedora) when they go in to work. It also reminds me of going to Uncle Vinny's barbershop and getting to sit and spin in the barber chairs. (Uncle Vinny owned the barbershop next to the butcher shop).
    Wonderful memories all of I am going to continue the trip down memory lane on my own before I ramble too long.

  20. Cyndi, I didn't realize your grandfather owned a butcher shop. Fun!

    I love the smell of fresh baked bread, and peaches are one of my favorite summer fruits!

    it is a shame men no longer wear hats (fedora) when they go in to work.

    I wonder how many men nowadays could pull off the look. :-)

  21. Many of the same things as you.
    My Mom wore the same scent for years. It is no longer available, but I will smell it every once in a while.

    There are two aftershaves my husband wore when we first dated and got married. Old Spice, which he still uses and British Sterling which I really like. Need to see if that is still available.

    Your comment about the spice market reminded me of when I was in Singapore. Walking down the street, the smells would change every few blocks. It was the difference in the ethnicity of the neighborhood and the spices they used.

    There have been lots of times when a scent will trigger a memory.