Ahhhh! The Smells of Home Cooking
I have become a pretty good cook over the years and, because I have never had to cook when I did not feel like it, I still enjoy it after almost four decades of doing it. The other day I had something in the oven. My wife walked into the kitchen and with a big anticipatory smile, told me how good it smelled. I took a deep sniff through my nose and concentrated on the aromas and she was right. It smelled really good.
We eat out in restaurants a lot (lazy buggers with nothing better to do with their money, I know). I realized in our moment of olfactory bliss that the one experience you almost never get in a restaurant, except when passing by the kitchen exhaust fan on the street outside, is the house full of aromas experience. And come to think of it, when the food hits the table, there isn’t much on offer in the way of good smells either. I am sure there are some exceptions to this, small mom and pop restaurants, street cart vendors, and more. But in my experience, the overwhelming number of my dining experiences outside of the home lack a significant smell component. The food can taste great, look great, but rarely do I recall how it smelled. Preparing food is a full bodied experience in the round that is hard to replicate and offer to customers. A set of sensual experiences that guide and inform the process and connect your being to it in the most intimate way.
I have a hand crafted wooden letter opener that my mother gave me years ago. Its one of my favorite possessions. Its beautiful and functional, feels good in my hand, and makes me think of my mother whenever I pick it up. When I think about what the process for making it must have been, the sights, the sounds, and the smells involved in bringing it from carefully chosen piece of raw wood to finished letter opener, I realize I have missed the majority of the sensual experience history of the object. Include my mother’s process of choosing it and sending it to me, and you have quite a deep story of conception, birth, and existential relationship to tell. Add on top of that my own daily experiences with it and wow…if only there was some kind of recording device that could capture all that and make it available for inspection.
Deep, full bodied storys are extremely satisfying. They recount to us the fullness of life experiences, a fullness we are fully equipped to take in, but rarely do. In a consumptive world that places the emphasis on quantity and radicalness of experience over quality and intimacy of experience, these storys are not often noticed and appreciated. I suspect that is becoming more and more the case, as experience goes virtual so much more of the time. Its time to stop and cook yourself something delicious. And make sure you pause long enough to smell it too.