Friday, 29 August 2008

The Power of Smell . . .

"Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived." ~Helen Keller

There is something really special about smells. They have the power to grasp your mind and instantly take you back to any memory in your experience . . . to make you feel really safe, or afraid, or comfortable or sad.

My mother's old wooden cooking spoon has absorbed the smell of many a year . . . and many a pot!! No matter how many times it has been washed and scrubbed, time's compelling odour abounds. The smell of garlic, onion and tomato paste permeates it and whispers golden memories of evenings shared with loved ones . . . now miles apart.

The smell of molasses cookies always takes me back to my grandmother's ample lap and the feeling of warmth and love as I cuddled there . . . the creak of her rocking chair as she held me close, and her soft voice singing "you are my sunshine" . . .

One time, when my own children were babies, I opened a bottle of gripe water and was instantly transported back to a time that was long hidden in the recesses of my mind. I can't describe the sensation, but I felt instantly comforted and safe . . .

Occasionally when I am in a chemists, I will encounter a smell that in my memory reminds me of being a teenage girl and getting ready for Saturday night . . . washing my hair and rinsing it with this pink hair conditioner . . . Lady Patricia's I believe it was called . . . it's a smell that makes me feel 16 again and full of excitement and anticipation . . . and very nostalgic.

The smell of Ma Griffe perfume always takes me back to my mother's bosom and the memory of watching her as she got gussied up to go out for a night on the tiles with my dad. She always looked so pretty and my dad looked so handsome and I knew we children would have to be extra quiet the next morning as they recovered in bed . . .

The top dresser drawer of the old white dresser in the spare room at my mom's still smells like a combination of leather, tobacco, cork grease and butterscotch wafers, or, in other words . . . my dad. He was a consummate clarinetist and used to keep a hidden stash of butterscotch wafers in that drawer along with his cork grease and wallet. He's not been there in that room for a very long time, but the smell lingers on and makes me think of my secret forays into his forbidden stash of buttery sweetness . . .

Holidays have certain smells . . . Hallowe-en smells like a combination of rotting leaves, frost and burnt pumpkin . . . Christmas, it is the smell of pine mixed with ginger, cinnamon and log fires . . . Thanksgiving smells like roasting turkeys and the spice of pumpkin pies . . . Easter smells like chocolate, lilies, and ham and eggs . . . as for your birthday, well . . . that smells like excitement, cake and melting wax candles!!!

Evening in Paris, burning leaves, a freshly sharpened pencil, a wood fire, musty moth balls, dusty attics . . . these smells and others all hold the keys to magical moments in time, known only to me. Little treasures and gems hidden in my mind just waiting for me to take them out and hold them in my hands again, if only for a moment . . .

I must offer my heartfelt thanks for all your lovely comments yesterday and your encouragement, and e-mails. They all meant the world to me and brought a little pitty pat to my heart . . . speaking of which I am pretty certain now that my heart's in quite good condition for just when I sat down to write this morning the tell tale black shadow and silent swoop of a bat's wings brushed over my head and let me tell you this ample figure hasn't moved so quickly in a long time. My heart raced, as I crawled across the kitchen floor to turn on all the lights and I am now sitting in bright daylight as every single light is on here downstairs, and they're going to stay that way until we find the offending creature . . . I confess . . . there may have been a bit of squealing involved as well . . . poor Jess did not know what was going on . . .

Speaking of making your heart go pitty pat . . . here's some lovely squares that also do it to my heart . . . not to mention making my taste bud's tingle!

*Chocolate Tiffin Squares*
Makes 15 to 24 pieces, depending on how greedy you are. :-)

4 oz butter
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons drinking chocolate
5 ounces good quality milk chocolate (I like Green and Black's organic)
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 tablespoons sultana raisins
1 TBS glace cherries, halved
8oz Rich Tea or shortcake biscuits

Line a 7 X 11 inch shallow Swiss Roll tin with some parchment paper, lightly grease the paper, and set the pan aside.

Melt the butter and sugar with the syrup in a large pan over medium heat. Add the sultanas, cherries and the drinking chocolate. Bring to the boil. Allow to bubble gently, over low heat, for two to three minutes to thicken the mixture up a little. Stir in the milk chocolate and let it melt, mixing it in thoroughly.

Meanwhile,crush the biscuits with a rolling pin. Alternatively, you can grind them in a food processor to give crumbs, depending on whether you prefer a smooth or chunky effect. I like a mixture of both. Try not to leave the crumbs too large though or the cake won't hold together very well.

Mix the crumbs well into the chocolate mixture, coating them thoroughly. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared tin and level it out, pushing down the mixture well. Leave to set in a cool place. Once solid, lift out the parchment paper and cut into 14 to 24 pieces with a sharp knife.


  1. Wow, that was such a wonderful post! As you described the smells that mean so much to you, my mind immediately thought of smells that are special to me - my grandmother's house, Christmas breakfast casserole, the campfire smell that gets stuck in clothes, the orange roll-on scent my sister gave me in high school. Thanks for that special trip down memory lane. I think I'll spend the next day or two remembering smells and why they are special.

  2. I too will spend a couple of days remembering all the smells of yesterday. I love coming here, you always make me think and your posts carries on into my day!
    I miss you too Marie...September is even busier but I'll try to pop in as much as possible!
    Say Hi to everyone for me!

  3. Love that post Marie!
    Those chocolate squares look lovely!

  4. You're right Marie, everyone has those smells that take them back to a place and time. I hate it though when you smell something that reminds you of something but you just can't put your fingers on it at all!

  5. I loved your writing all about those nostalgic smells. The smell of a certain Waitrose bath wash always reminds me of my Mum when she gets ready to go to a concert or theatre with my Dad. And i love chocolate sqaures - my only problem with them is how addictive they are!


  6. Scents that do it for me are: fresh bread baking, mulled cider at Christmas time and Jergen's cherry almond lotion. There are others, but those stand out for me! Love those chocolate squares.

    Much love, Raquel XO

  7. Sense of have done it again! Creating thoughts, memories, and remembrances that stir the soul. I know that I personally have a signature fragrance that I wear, and often am told, that others smell it, and think, that's Sheryl. Having grown up at the beach, the ocean, the bonfires, and cookouts. Singing around the campfire of many a summer vacation. My children coming home from school to homemade cookies. I also think of my dad's drafting board, his pencils and erasers... mom's fresh laundry pulled off of the clothesline. The fresh soil of my mother's gardens. This is going to be a great day of thinking about those memories connected to life thru yummy fragrances.

  8. Dear Marie, love this post!!I love smell dear!! My favorites, coffe,Christmas (is special smell), baking, Mom cookies and a Christmàs bread she make,fresh bread,Christmas tree! (natural of course),violets smell,roses, jazmin,antiques books,new books,somes clothes that comes from China have a special smell like Tea, I love them,babies smell,hubby smell,childs smell, etc.etc. and Gerardo Jr is the same, he smell all!! When I cook he comes and some days he smell into the pot!!
    The recipe is absoluitely yummy!!
    I hope you received my mail too dear. huggssss!!! and kisses to Todd!! Gloria

  9. I was born with no sense of smell... I envy all the smells you and everyone else talked about... I just found out lately that rain has a smell, I thought because its water that it did'nt.
    A lovely post....I enjoyed it as always.

  10. one of my favourite smells is bacon and onion frying. I'm so hopelessly food obsessed...LOL

  11. I enjoy many songs on your play list. Cheers.

  12. My dear Marie - as usual I'm late reading any posts and (also as usual) I started with the most recent!

    I never had any babies but, like you, I absolutely LOVE the smell of gripe water. Give me a bottle of Dinnefords to sniff and you'll keep me quiet for hours!

    If you haven't got gripe water, give me a child's pencil case. The smell of wax crayons has me transported back to infant school when each table had a huge pot of thick, black wax crayons (we didn't get proper pencils until we were in the top class).

    And of course the back-to-school smell of whichever September day that happened to be. It was always there, and still is.

    This post is wonderful and has really set me thinking! Even the choc squares - it was our local Farmers' Market last Saturday and I bought something like these and was wondering how to make them. Now I know - thank you!

    love, Angie, xx

  13. I absolutely LOVE your blog :)

    I've made one of your recipes and have a bunch more bookmarked for my menus this week, I can't wait.

    Thank you for sharing all these wonderful recipes and thoughts, you always make me smile.

  14. Marie,

    Why do you think I'm upset? Did I say or do some thing? I just realized the comment I left you this morning never went through!! I wasn't ignoring you or upset. This morning before work I checked your blog and left you a comment about how wonderful your bars were, but I guess my Internet dropped out on me. In fact, I have a sussy for you!!!! E-mail me or send me a text message and I'll tell you! I love you sooooo much!

  15. Isn't the power of smell amazing? I love the smell of violet water, apple pie, peaches and cream perfume, the ocean, and my hubby's cologne (blushes):-). Your house must smell wonderful with all the delicious aromas of your cooking!

  16. Isn't it amazing how smells can take us back in time. I love it when that happens. I never got to see my dad's mom after he ran off with a young gal and left our family when I was 7. She lived in another state and my mom never had the money for us to go visit her.

    I can't remember what she looked like but I remember the smell of the soap she used... it was palmolive. The smell of that soap makes me happy.

    I've heard of being "batty" and having "bats in the belfry" but never bats in the kitchen. Are you sure it was just a bat??? Vampires are very popular these days. You had better sleep with a silver cross near by... ha

    Have a nice weekend. Love, Lura

  17. You're not gonna believe this Marie but I learned how to sing "You are my sunshine at my grandmothers house when I was little! I've never seen bars like this before, another great recipe Marie!

  18. Marie,
    Once again you have given me something to ponder about today. I think my favorite smell in the world is/was the smell of my kids when they were newborns -- baby powder,lotion and milk all wrapped up in a warm bundle. Thanks again!!!

  19. When ever my mom sends a gift she sprays a bit of her perfume on it. As soon as the gift arrives is smells like mom... It's just her smell and I LOVE it!

  20. How I love your darling blog. Grammy Staffy sent me over to take a look and I'm so glad I did. I too can affirm that smells evoke memories and emotions in my life as well. How beautifully you state it.


Your comments mean the world to me, and while I may not be able to address each one individually, each one is important to me and each one counts. Thanks so much!