May 13, 2008
Ever notice how much the smells in a particular location create a sensory association with that location? I was thinking about how one of the things I actually love about NYC are the smells and then I got to thinking that it's not just NYC it's lots of places.
In New York I love the smell of the pretzel vendors, a sort of smoky, dry, charcoal and bread smell that is divine. I also love the smell of the nut vendors. They sell candy coated nuts of all varieties that smell lovely and sweet (and incidentally better than they taste). The smell of the subway, or better, the PATH train. It's a dry and warm smell that's particularly nice in the fall and winter when it's a welcome respite from the weather outside. Then there's the halal and falafel vendor carts, a nice middle eastern, curry-type smell. Oh, and let's not forget the shish-kabob vendors with their luscious lamb kabobs. Now that I'm typing this, I'm trying to think if all my smell connections with NYC have to do with food!
In North Carolina there's the smell of the ocean when you've just drove 4+ hours to get there. There's the smell of the inlets and the salt. There's also the smell of the earth that's just apparent when you're outside. When we get to my parents' house it's always nice to take in a big sniff of their yard and it's greeness and aliveness.
Of course there are food smells there, but they're really linked with childhood. The smell of Silver Queen corn ready to eat, my mom's biscuits, my mom's vegetable soup in the winter, mom's chili (you see a theme here?). Then there's the smell of my grandmother's egg house and cooler. They had an egg delivery business so one room was dedicated to the boxes for the eggs. The cooler was it's own building that was refidgerated for the extra produce they grew and had a wonderful smell of fresh produce. That smell coupled with the wonderful cool sensation of stepping out of the near 100% humidity into the refrigeration was marvelous.
Also associated with childhood is the smell of asphalt and gasoline that I associate with the school bus. The smell of old-style carbon copies that reminds me of report cards. The smell of the library (this can be repeated by going to any small, old library) and particularly the card catalog (an old relic these days, I'm afraid). The smell of honeysuckle and magnolia blossoms. The smell of the woods. The dusky smell of the crawl space under the house where there were always hordes of camel crickets.
I wonder what smells I will associate with Mexico down the road. Already I love the smell of the taco vendors (even though I haven't actually tried a taco from them- it has been reported by a friend that they are very good). I love the smell of arrachera grilling and the smell of pastor meat. Of course, these are food things, but I wonder if I'll be nostalgic over other smells that I don't even know about now.
People often talk about the light in Mexico. I can see how that would be something one would miss. I know I would miss the weather. I have gotten used to wearing shorts and tank tops all the time. I've gotten used to going to the beach once a week (at least).
When I was in New Jersey for one short week I missed Mexican accented Spanish. All the Spanish I heard in our old neighborhood was more Cuban or Central American sounding- where they clip off the s's. I know for certain that I will miss certain Mexican foods when I'm back in the states (although someone assured me that now that I know what I'm looking for, if I go to the Mexican part of town I can get some very good authentic Mexican food).
What smells do you associate with Mexico? What smells are special to you?