Thursday, August 20, 2009

Scents and Scentsibility

By Judith Garfield

If you ask my family, they will tell you I have E.S.P.

Extra scentsory perception.

I smell too well. It’s a genetic condition. My mother informed me at a very early age I needed deodorant. Although this is not something a young girl really wants to hear, I am grateful she was watching out for me. Likewise, my children and husband regularly seek my opinion on all scent-related matters, and usually agree Mom knows best.

More often than not I utter those three infamous words that nobody wants to hear, “What’s that smell?” Some can ignore troublesome odors and hope they disappear on their own, and in many cases they do. But others must be dealt with. The gas leak, the smoldering cigarette, the dead animal rotting somewhere in the walls, or the banana that found its way under the bed. I cannot give up until the culprit is identified, and I am as persistent as any four-legged bloodhound.

Smell is one of the senses most deeply attached to memories. I think that is why I honestly like the smell of skunk. Well, maybe not the actual smell, but the happy memories it evokes. Summer camp. An idyllic oasis for two months where I never had a worry other than winning color war.

Smells can trigger memories both good and bad. I still don’t understand the appeal of candles that are supposed to replicate cookies or pies baking in the oven. If I come to your house and there is the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, I want a cookie. Not a candle. I only like food smells coming from actual food.

Same for shower gels and soaps. The latest claim out there is fruit-scented shower gels can help with cravings for sweets, and you can get your fix by taking a shower or bath. I don’t know about you, but if I have to choose between sinking my teeth into a piece of blueberry pie or a slurp of shower gel-I know which one wins.

I do love candles that have pretty fragrances. But sometimes I just want a whiff of pipe tobacco or new car or (and I am really dating myself here) the warm purple ink of mimeographed copies. You couldn’t read them very well, but they smelled so good you didn’t care. If you sometimes have cravings for unconventional scents, visit

So, what smells do you love? New tennis balls, gasoline, puppy breath…fess up!


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more ----what's the sense of smelling cookies if there are none to eat. Personally, I love the scent of fresh lilies but they make my husband gag. We compromise with a lily scented candle that can be extinguished when he comes home.

Anonymous said...

Although I usually concur with your wisdom, I simply cannot agree about the pie scented candles. I love the yankee pumpkin pie candles. It reminds me of Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. But I think the main reason I love it is the memories. It reminds me of coming home for the holidays to a house full of love and laughter...and it smells better than skunk.

Big Shantz said...

in the abstract: the smell of my apt when the windows have been open all day; every apt i've had has this same fresh smell. it must be the absence of the eye-level invisible detritus-filled air we live, breathe & walk in all day. above that line, which is relative of course, city life can sometimes smell, if not entirely be, sweet. i also like the smell of my feet.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite smells as a kid was the smell of my family's garage. I don't know if the smell came from spilled gasoline or oil or what, but I could never get enough of it. Unfortunately, my garage these days is too filled with stuff to house an actual car, so I no longer can go get a whiff of that smell that I used to love so much.
Thanks for another entertaining article!

Carol said...

Deodorant oops are you sweat that much to use deodorant in early age only???
Home Security Systems no CREDIT CHECK everyone is approved

Anonymous said...

freshly cut grass and crisp late summer/early fall air are my favorites. and the smell of my hands after cutting onions or garlic. but not my breath.

Anonymous said...

emmmmm, my freshly washed horse and tack might be up there with my favorite smells. Mowed grass is another, and yes I agree puppy breath ^..^

Anonymous said...

First time reading your blog & loved it. Couldn't agree more that smells & memories go hand in hand. Like a previous comment, I too enjoy the smell of fresh cut grass, especially when I didn't do the cutting. Keep up the great writing.