my two scents

i lived in italy when i was tiny.  i remember some things so vividly and other things not at all.  size-wise, everything is off.  i visited a few years ago and thought i remembered the hotel we initially lived at as being palatial.  it wasn’t.  i thought the shops went on and on down this particular strip of the coast.  they don’t. the town is a bit smaller than i remember.

but the smells.  i can’t get those out of my head.  and the stronger the smell, the stronger the memory. butcher shops of cured meat and stinky cheeses.  i love those smells.  i’m not sure if it is the smell i love as much as the memory it conjures.  i can sniff a piece of salami like a rose and be perfectly content.  the same with leather.  on a trip to mt. vesuvius we picked up a souvenir of a box of various stones/rocks from the volcano.  we kept it for a long time and when you opened the box all these smells came pouring out.  i wouldn’t think of stones as being that “smelly” but they were.  in a good way.  except for the sulfurous ones.  i can still smell those stones if i think about it. 

i’m not one to jump at the chance to sit next to someone who is smoking at a restaurant but if it is rainy, cold and i’m outside, that second-hand smoke is about as good a childhood italian memory as i can get. (sorry, mom and dad.)  and even better if i’m eating a piece of salami while sitting there.

this all makes me wonder what my kids will remember.  the smells they are growing up with are so different from mine.  we cook and bake a lot so i hope they will smile when they smell almond extract, lentil soup, and scones baking.  smells that i have just grown accustomed to will be part of who they are – rice and beans, tostones, mangoes, tamarinds.

though i do think a trip to italy is in order soon because what is a childhood without some smelly italian memories?



6 thoughts on “my two scents

  1. As an Actor we use “smell” all the time to bring memories of our past into the scenes/plays we are performing. It is scientifically proven to bring nostalgia and emotions sitting in the subconscious right back to the surface.

  2. it is the euro thing, isn’t it…i remember convos between you, omie and me and he just couldn’t understand why we like the smell of the first strike of the match and the lighting of a cigarette. and who would blame him (most of us do NOT like the overall smell of smokes!)? but, when you put it in the context of an outdoor cafe in florence with a cup of espresso in hand? magic.

  3. joe – i bet you and the boys will have some childhood smells in common…at least food-wise. so do you think of your mom’s mofongo (in a good way) when you need to cry?

    kelli – this topic came up the other day between me and omar and again, he just shook his head and gave me the “you’re crazy” look.

    jenni – i think you need to go get yourself some genuine italian smell memories. pronto.

  4. Wow. Italy! What a great setting for your memories.

    I have such specific memories of my childhood as well…like the feeling of my grandmother’s little green drinking glasses in my hands. Strange little things like that.
    I, too, wonder what our children are latching on to now. What sort of memories will they have from these early years when they are so impressionable…

    Love the alphabet cookie cutters. I bought alphabet cookie cutters for “my someday children” about 5 years before I had a baby. 🙂

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