Smells

075

(Hey, everybody – Friday was such a mess on the blog, I’m leaving Lee’s post up for Monday.  Enjoy!)

Dear All

I was intending to write about the new Patricia de Nicolai men’s scent, Patchouli. However, the diminutive store (synecdoche or its friend coming up, folks) either forgot to post it as per my polite phone request (they’re so lovely there), it’s lost in the post, it’s been delivered to the wrong address (two very similar addresses nearby mean my post does tend to wander) or it’s been held up in one of the interminable postal strikes that seem to happen in London all too frequently, and all too unreportedly. October, I hope.

Given the above, I’ve pulled a topic out of the bag. There’s dirt under my fingernails and soil in my socks (does soil have negative connotations across the pond? – if so, I’m sorry – I don’t mean poop), and the scent of change in the air. Yes, it’s that late-summer-becomes-early-autumn moment and I’m going to tell you how it’s been smelling down my way.

First, of vegetable gluts. The problem with growing food on a plot of land near others who do the same, is the rapid spread of pests and diseases. I’m used to plagues of cabbage whiteflies, the caterpillars that chow down on my brassica more readily than I do, the flea beetle holes that pepper my rocket/arugula. Normally, tomatoes succumb to blight by July here. But this year, perhaps because most of my fellow allotmenteers gave up on tomatoes after three terrible years of curling leaves and wizened stumps, I’ve had no such problems. That near acrid aroma of crushed tomato leaf and freshed picked fruit has filled me to bursting, and I’ve had pounds and pounds of tomatoes for immediate consumption, pasta sauce making, chutneys and pickles. The best producers have been a mixture of old faithfuls and surprises – cherry tomatoes Sungold and Gardener’s Delight, and Kellogg’s Breakfast and Marianna’s Peace in the surprises (all thanks to C for the seed for the last two). But the best of all has been Black Krim, or Black Russian, a gorgeous heritage variety that produces vast, sliceable beefsteaks, green-black on top to pinkinsh orange underneath. Slightly salty, rich and smooth fleshed, they’ve been one of my summer highlights. And I have two waiting for me, with basil and olives, for my supper tonight.

Ripe corn, starchy sweetness. Small green peppers, that galbanum hit before the fire strikes. The clean cool caress of a cucumber, picked young. The strange otherworldly perfume of French beans, whose aroma reminds you of their tropical origin. More mint than I can cook with, slice into salads and turn into cordial. The milky sap of multicoloured lettuce leaves.

And now, the smell of turned earth is starting to dominate. At home, in the back garden/yard, I’m relandscaping. Removing plants that have become dominant, getting blistered hands from mattock-swinging action and making room for more colour and more light and more scent. But for now, the most striking scents are the parsnippy nuttiness of pulled roots, the mentholated quality of cut down eucalypts, the incredible hit of petrichor, artificially produced. It’s parched here, and I’ve broken my self-imposed hosepipe ban in order to dig out plants. I miss that smell or rain on earth. We’ve only had meaningful rain twice in three months.

But my favourite smells this year have emerged from a newfound love – pickling and preserving. I’ve made plum and ginger jam, green tomato chutney, quince and squash chutney, pickled shallots, pickled garlic, sweet cucumber relish. Spice, sugar, vinegar. Yum.

picklesWhat smells are ringing your bell and knocking on your door, right about now?

37 Comments

  1. Ay up, farmer Lee!

    I adore the sharp, dusty smell of tomato leaves. Although I live in an apartment in the middle of Washington, DC, I frequently grow tomato plants just for the smell of the leaves and vines.

    Lately, I have been craving certain aromas I associate with autumns past. not the usual leaf burnings and damp air but specific smells that take to e specific place and time. Autumn is the season I most associate with change and travel. So I am thinking of my trip to France a few years ago with my best mates and the indescribably delicious smell of pastries baking and strong coffee in the Rue de Seine (Gerard Mulot, this is all your fault) on a grey Paris morning. The strange combination of old vegetables, car exhaust, sweat and hairspray of Berwick Street market in Soho. The familiar smells of office buildings encountered in this year’s job search — dust, photocopiers, handcream and wood polish….I could go on.

    But my favorite smell is basset hound paws after a successful leaf pile pouncing!

  2. Apples. Honeysweets from the roadside stand between March’s ranch and mine. Fujis-even imported, they spread spice and sweet in my lunch bag. Old time Stayman’s from a weekend jaunt. And soon, orchard odors from taking the students culling. Mmmmmm.

    It’s still possible to find a good tomato this year, and some baby taters. I’ve been stir frying like crazy, and the mix of truly fresh veggies and olive oil smells fabulous tonight. My other treasured fall smell is the just-fallen leaves beginning to decay, mixed with mud, that I find on my bike rides.

    You’re the Pickle King, Lee. Just reading of your descriptions of putting-up ventures makes my mouth water 😉

    Oh, and there’s also my ebay score of the year-an opened, pristine bottle of vintage Lanvin Scandal….it is all that!

    Oh, and my vintage, intact bottle

  3. Yum, the pickle descriptions make my mouth water, too. My neighbor’s apple & pear trees are full to bursting, right outside my windows. Today I smelled woodsmoke and burning leaves while driving through the country. These are all short lived, as allergies push me back indoors. Still, first frost is predicted next week – great news for seasonal allergy sufferers. Then I can shuffle through the most marvelous autumn smell of all: gorgeous, technicolor maple leaves. Wearing one of my latest obsessions, Piment Brulant or Ambre Russe.

  4. The deeply satisfying scents of pipe tobacco, cold, and Pure Oud.

    October is my favorite smelling month. The leaves, the grass, the gradually cooling earth, the wool sweaters releasing their perfume after being stowed away for 6 months, and smoke from fires beginning to be kindled in fireplaces.

    I promise I meant for that to be more prosaic.

    Mmmm Pure Ouuuuuud…..

  5. Well the Bad Smell is that of Dead Frog. Dead, Flattened Frog (run over in the driveway, alas). Now that he has been consigned to the compost pile, with appreciation for his contribution (I did thank him, truly I did), I can now get back to smelling more delightful things rather than wondering if every pair of shoes in my house had molded out. Dead Frog is amazingly strong for something so small.
    Ringing my bell: The smell of the last of the fresh corn, cut and scraped into a bowl for pudding. Yum! Tomatoes are still going strong but I’m pretty sick of them now – they came all in a rush, as is their wont when the climate is weird.

    The smell of metal shavings and machine oil – that is the smell of a HUGE JOB in-house. I do laundry in this fambly and the past 2 weeks I’ve had a grin on my face, every time I’ve done a load of El O’s shop clothes. Whoo-hoo!

    Yeasty breads. It’s that rainy-cool mornings, followed by sharp sunny afternoons. Perfect for homemade yeasted waffles.

    Fresh sheets. Anytime.

    And Liz Zorn’s Domino Viole – I’d forgotten about it and I’m so glad I did, as it was like coming upon a new present! Perfect for autumn, as Violets and Rainwater is perfect for spring. I believe Chaya called her a ‘rogue genius’ and I’m calling Chaya a rogue genius for coming up with that apt description!

    Glad your garden is going strong, pests notwithstanding! Smoochies to you!
    xox your rogue >-)

  6. Lee,
    Ever since I was a child I have been addicted to pickles. ALL kinds of them. My mother swears she craved them when I was in her tummy, but I honestly can put away a jar in one sitting….something that occurs more frequently than I’d like to admit.
    I eat them year round, so I can’t actually say that’s what I’m smelling now.

    Aaron is an amazing baker, and he’s been on a bread baking binge lately, so I do my part and, well, sit and watch. The smells are divine.

    I hate to admit this, but I truly abhor Autumn…simply because I love the summer and the heat, and I mean HEAT. Oh well, tuberoses were just in bloom and I took full advantage. I miss them already.

    Hope all is well with you, love.

    • All is very well thanks Bryan. And please – try to enjoy the Fall just a little!

      xx

  7. What a bucolic post! Beautifully written, as ever, but a million miles from me in my riverside apartment in London.

    I can’t smell a thing at the moment due to the dreaded late summer cold (aka punishment for spending three weeks in Italy) but if I could, I would rejoice in the aroma of freshly ground coffee, newly baked bread, woodsmoke and vintage Guerlain (of course). I also love the smell of expensive shoes and handbags, and Liberty’s (must be the textiles).

    • Hope the cold goes quickly, and did you get to see ‘Britain can (still) make it’ at Liberty?

  8. Fresh cut grass when the husband says, “that’s probably the last time I need to mow for the season.”
    The smell of lanovin in the wool–the yarn I’ve spun and haven’t knitted into anything! And the compelling need to wear musk! One email from Louise on Musc Ravageur and I’m spritzing!

    PS missed you beloved Perfume Posse!

    • You SPIN YARN?

      Wow.

      See? the stuff you learn on the Posse. I mean, I know it has to be spun but I swear on my toenails that I hadn’t a clue how it was actually done, beyond the fairytales (did you ever wonder what happened to the King and Queen in Sleeping Beauty when they woke up, 100 years later? I always wondered if their kingdom still existed – I mean, 100 years – plenty of time to get a new king or two…or even a (gasp!) democracy! I drove my mother mad with that!

      Anyhoo…I now have to go look up spinning (from whence ‘spindle’ comes, I assume (or vice versa). How did you learn to spin?

      xoxo a really interested, irritating >-)

  9. Love the garden smells! My tomatoes came down with the dreaded blight and so my garden is winding down prematurely this year. Still, I know those lovely end-of-season smells and catch them clinging to the fur of my three cats when they come in for the night. It is not uncommon to smell skunk at this time of year; they are out in force after dark, scavenging grubs and dropped birdseed to fatten themselves for the long winter. The grass in the yard smells faintly of burnt sugar at the end of summer, although I don’t know why…
    And now that the weather has turned cooler I am looking forward to wearing more “Autumn” fragrances; today, Anick Goutal Heure Exquise. Tonight I will wear a bit of Chanel No. 5 to bed. Against my better judgement, I bought it on eBay. It could be fake, but if so, it’s quite a good quality fake. And it doesn’t have to be too long-lasting…

    • There’s probably a good botanist’s answer to you burnt sugar wonder, but I can’t help you either…

  10. Black Russians are wonderful! We had a lot of cold nights in August, so the heirloom selection at the farmers’ market is small, crop size and tomato size. They’ve been, for the most part, the size of a large cherry tomato. I’ve been loving them sauteed whole, with scrambled eggs and artisan sourdough for breakfast.

    My dad makes the best crock pickles. The brine is not added hot and this seems to make for a milder, more well-balanced flavor. They really don’t taste anything like canned pickles, which I like as well. But crock pickles are a real treat.

    As far as smells… October is fast approaching and that’s when my favorite smells begin, the briskness of a cold morning, vegetables roasting in the oven, wood burning in the fireplace, the way the ground smells when I’m raking leaves.

    I got into this whole perfume thing again the end of last December. I’ve always been a fan of 95 degree summer days and not so excited when the weather changed. But all the delicious orientals I’ve discovered have me so excited for next week, when the temp is supposed to drop 20 degs, and the rain is supposed to start.

    Thanks for a great post, Lee, I don’t post much here but you write the most beautiful columns.:)

    • Nom nom nom to breakfast, pickles, the works. And thanks for your kind compliment.

  11. speaking of pickles and chutney…are there any perfumes that smell like vinegar? In a good way? Probably not, but it crossed my mind as I read your gardening descriptions.

  12. melanie:
    i think liaisons dangereuses by kilian has a vinegary-dill-sugary-jam top note…

  13. If it would BE fall I’d be more excited about fall smells… it’s still a bit warm though. For the few days it was cooler I enjoyed digging out a couple of incenses and a few fall-ish things that I’m always happy to revisit. Those photographs are lovely!

    • Sweetiepeanut, we just lost Summer. I was baking in the heat yesterday – today we are all in heavy sweaters and jackets. Gale-force winds and totally dropped temps. Good Mme Jolie weather. The citruses are clamoring to snuggle up in their jammies – they’re ready for a long winter’s nap.

      I think it’s time for vintage L’Origan – it really blooms in cooler weather.

      xoxo >-)

  14. Lee, I’m glad you get to hang out here another day…I but saw your post for a fleeting moment on Friday, March is right, let’s enjoy. 🙂

    Ah, lots of garden work this summer, but it was all build toward the future, as April lasted until yesterday around here. No tomatoes, no warm weather crops at all. OTOH, two blooms out of the perennials, and green green green nearly the whole time through, including the grass. (Which I won’t water, so it must do or not.)

    Smells I like around this time of year: Crushed leaves, fresh and some dead, from harvesting and clearing and preparing for the cold. Autumn wildflowers (& weeds) wafting as I bike through uncultivated paths. The fleeting intense warmth of the 4 o’clock autumn sun as it hits my patio. An occasional wood fire, with promises of more. Dust, cardboard, old books. (I’m purging.) Cotton and wool coming out of storage. (I’m preparing.) Dirt, dirt, dirt. (Soil, soil, soil.) Moldering fallen fruits on the sidewalk. Absence–fall hasn’t quite hit fully, so there’s this odd hole in the smell of the air…no more summer flowers/plants, but no mums or big leaf fall or anything yet. A smell that has no smell but is on the brink of something.

    And apple brandy. I have a basement chemist friend who whipped up a fine potion. 🙂

    • Oh, regarding “soil”…I don’t think you need to be concerned with “soil in your socks” on this side of the pond. Now, if you invoke your pants…different story. A world of difference between “there’s soil on my pants” than “I’ve soiled my pants.”

      Now I’ll go out and happily sniff some soil. Loamy, not indolic. 😉

    • Oh I’ve purged some books too, though the smell tickles my nose too much. So you’ve had no heat, eh? How odd…

  15. Well, we’ve got a bushel+ of apples squirreled away in various corners of the house, so the whole place veritably reeks of APPLE. And with that many apples, the only thing you can do is bake with them: apple pies, Bavarian apple kuchen (somewhere between a pie and a cake), apple zucchini bread, spiced apple cookies, and so on. My husband even figured out that you could replace potatoes with apples in curry dishs with fantastic results.

  16. The smell of the early bloom of flowers in the vineyard is a smell that no fragrance will ever replace.

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