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Fragrant memories

Zaktualizowano: 14 lut 2022

I do not like to write. It always takes me too much time to start, even more to finish, and I am never satisfied from the content. But let's make an attempt...

Since I remember, I always paid attention to odors and already as a kid I realized that some of them recall the past in surprisingly vivid manner.

The subject of smell was important at my home as my grandfather had permanent anosmia, so was using hectoliters of any cologne he got, without any restraints, and everyday was ‘improving’ the taste of the dishes with tons of hot spices, driving the author of the ruined dish (usually my grandmother) mad.

Smell of Wrigley’s spearmint gum and tangerines still reminds me the impatiently awaited Christmas eve, which is most celebrated holiday in Poland; with Christmas souvenirs under the tree, to be unpacked after celebrated supper, with obligatory 13 dishes (some of them meticulously prepared only once a year).

From time to time we were spending the Holidays with uncles and aunts. As a kid I could recognize them by their smell. To me, they had a common note resembling a flavored pencil rubber. I am not sure why, but perhaps because they were living in a newly build block of flats where at that time the floors were glued with a resin containing huge amount of styrene and toluene…

Although there was not much in the shops in communistic Poland where I was growing up, there were always citrus fruits available at the end of the year. A sniff of orange oil simply brings in front of my eyes a picture of boxes filled with Cuban oranges standing in nomen omen ‘Delikatesy’ shop at Świętojańska street in Gdynia. These oranges were bitter, green and stringy, but certainly signaled upcoming holiday season. Poland was trading coal for this Cuban delicatessen…

It was interesting to observe how my grandmother was cooking orange peels in sugar water and their sparkling fresh aroma was turning into dull, almost caramel, but still characteristic flavor which later was rendering her cheesecake unforgettable. Since I remember, I was given a responsible task to mix the ingredients for this specialty, which at my family was always generously spiced with walnuts, hazelnuts, raisins, freshly grated lemon peel and the just mentioned homemade candied orange peel. During the mixing process, I was carrying a regular ‘quality checkup’ which was getting particularly intensified after addition of vanilla sugar. I do not know how, but my grandma always managed to get all the ingredients even during the martial state. Her specialty was also tea hunting. At that time even the most popular Madras tea was not easy to get, but she always managed to capture some Yunnan from brotherly China and Twinings earl grey. She was making unforgettable blend of them. Thanks to this, I become tea addict. I learned later what is bergamot and how to make own ‘earl grey’. A sniff of bergamot oil immediately gives me almost vivid picture of the jar with this PRL tea blend and I feel like turning back time and tasting the childhood drink again. My first sample of bergamot oil gained from Pollena Aroma (lokal F&F company) was for years a source of my great joy in preparing double-, triple- or ‘mega-’ strong earl grey.

When speaking about Christmas, I can add that perfectly blended notes of caramel, hazelnut and chocolate in Toffifee are still making me happy although they were the reason, I learned that Santa does not exist (I caught my aunt placing the sweets under the Christmas tree and confronted her and my mother with difficult questions right away).

Coming back to my home odors, I must mention that no matter what, the fragrance of lavender immediately reminds me of felt-tip pens instead of lavender fields. I have never seen any lavender field in my life, however, as a kid I exploited heavily Chinese pens until complete dryness and my grandma was fixing them with the aid of her lavender water. This out fashioned cosmetic was bringing a second and often a third life to my drawing tools and was making the ‘artistic process’ of drawing rockets even more attractive. Drawing flowers was not laying within my scope of interest, so rockets and fire trucks smelled usually floral, as I always hesitated between becoming a cosmonaut or firefighter. Probably due to this dilemma and pyromaniac inclinations I become …a chemist and for years tortured my sense of smell with truly infernal phosphoroorganic and organosulfur specialties. For me, a short sniff of matches is enough to remind a day when my colleague skillfully emptied the chemistry building of my alma mater by dumping few milliliters of his reaction mixture to the sink (long live the environmental awareness!). The stench was unbearable, making professors sick and students run away, but actually, it would be fun to reproduce it again and refresh memories from the studies.

The evolved emotions, the sentiment for odors, and the concept of creating own favorite blends is pushing me constantly towards pursuit of pleasant notes, fragrances, and perfumery creation. Nevertheless, I am wondering about building a library of all kinds of odors which could bring back the memories of the past.

Do you have similar experiences? If you could get your memories bottled up, what kind of odors would you like to collect?

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