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?