Memory

It is a cool, soft rain day here in the Garden.  I woke up to that gentle pitter-patter that said ‘get the hell up NOW! and get all those plants out of the greenhouse and off the addition (Greenhouse Annex) so they can enjoy the rain.  So I did, slithering around in my polkadot robe (really, I didn’t even take time to dress!) – it’s 64F (heading up to 70F) at 8a, as I write this, and these are all outdoor plants that are beginning the hardening-off stages, so it’s a perfect day.

Salvia, kale, collards, ornamental cabbages… the dahlias that my sweet young friend overwintered in their pots! on her south-facing-but unheated- enclosed porch (that was a shocker – and the fact that even bone-dry, as the sun hit them, they began to leaf out! waaaa???  )  Peppers.  Basil.

And then the tomatoes.  And with that, a flood of memories.

Now… here’s the thing:  Even though I grow them, in their natural state I don’t love tomatoes all that much.  But there’s something about tomato leaf… I wonder if everyone who’s ever brushed a tomato leaf (even if only at the grocery store) experiences some race-memory from it?  I don’t remember any IRL association to that smell, though my mother was an avid gardener and loved tomatoes.  My grandmother & aunt were both fashion plates who would no more dig a hole in the dirt than they would go barefoot – so there’s no ‘Nana in the kitchen’ memory.

But… omg.  Such a flood of memories – but here’s the thing:  none of them were actually associated with tomatoes!  Not like CBIHatePerfume’s thought behind Memory of Kindness. … but memory, just the same.   I wondered if there is something, some enzyme? in the tomato leaf itself that triggers memory – and so I went a-Googling (but not for too long, as I still have stuff to get outside – this soft rain really is stunningly perfect) – I came upon this post from Garden Betty (one of my favorite science-y garden/food writers ), wherein she talks about the whys of tomato-leaf smell.  And that led to a link to another blog post about using tomato leaves in tomato sauce – but you’ll have to read the linked post to find it because I’m Just That Mean 😉

Anyhoo – what I find intriguing about tomato leaves triggering memory is that every time I handle them it triggers a new memory!  The first time I moved the tomatoes into the greenhouse it triggered a memory of my mother baking my birthday cake – always chocolate and, because it was the 60s, always from a box.  It wasn’t the ‘day of’ memory; no, it was the ‘usually the day after’, when she would cut a slice, wrap it in waxed paper and put it in my lunchbox.  The faint, fabulously chemical tang of the chocolate frosting, as I scraped it off the waxed paper!  The anticipation of that from the first class with the BVM nuns glaring at us (ugh.  BVM nuns.  What a terrifying Order.)… the thrill of self-discipline, eating my sandwich first, so as to prolong the anticipation…

Today’s memory, however, isn’t even a memory – it’s a pastiche of sorts, combining a made-up memory, a love of St John suits (which I cannot Gray Malinwear)  and Stephen Sondheim   (I love Donna Murphy’s rendition of his marvelous ‘Could I Leave You?’ for Sondheim’s 80th – and OMG.  You want terror?  Watch Carol Burnett sing it.  I swear, comedians are the scariest people in the world.) The memory-idea conjured  Amouage Beloved, which I love unreservedly but also reserve for mizzling, melancholy days.  A woman, at lunch with her Ladies Who Lunch, in her pearls and pink St John suit , wondering why her life is so…. lifeless… but also capable of So. Much. Love.  I love Beloved beyond all loving.  Weird.. but true.  It breaks, yet lightens, my heart, which is the genius of that perfume.  And it’s the genius of Sondheim who, while not a BVM, is still pretty terrifying.  Every one of his songs rips my soul to shreds.  I wonder what he’d make of Beloved.  Or tomato leaf?

How do you feel about tomato leaf?  Love it or hate it?  Does it trigger memory for you?

and….do any of you want to come help me get all this stuff back in the greenhouse?

 

  • Ariel says:

    Tomato leaf makes me drool, and I never thought to look for it in a perfume. Silly me, glad I read this!

  • Patty says:

    I adore Beloved, and tomato leaf is the entirety of my childhood wrapped up in one smell.I wonder if I could put them together. You know, I was thinking this last couple of weeks, I though I would end up a lot cooler old person than I actually am. I need to work on that. 🙂

  • maggiecat says:

    Now I’m remembering my first Serious Vegetable Garden. I grew tomatoes, which I didn’t really like, but it seemed expected of one. One day, i picked a ripe tomato and it smelled…delicious. I went into the house, cut it open, sprinkled on a little salt and ate the Whole Thing. It was still warm from the sun, and i swear to this day I could taste the sunshine. Plastic grocery store tomatoes just can’t compete (though I like all things tomato now Go figure.)
    And I would happily come help you put everything back into the greenhouse except it’s a bit of a drive up from North Texas.

    • Musette says:

      I could SEE that memory, maggiecat!

      And thanks for the offer! I did stir my stumps and get everything back in – and there they’ll stay, since the ground is sodden . sigh. xoxo

  • gwenyth2 says:

    Beautiful. Evocative.
    I listened to both Donna Murphy and Carol Burnett. Love the song! So biting in it’s reality.
    Many perfumes elicit SUCH memories for me — and some memories I didn’t know I had…of long-ago-places and times which I didn’t remember until I smelled a particular perfume. L’Heure Bleue is one of those perfumes which brings such distinct feelings to mind sometimes I’m moved to tears.
    I love tomato leaf…and the memory of my father in his beloved garden. Warm, freshly picked tomatoes delivered to the dinner table by my dad (smelling like tomato leaves).
    Donna Karan Woman (tall, frosted bottle) is my favorite perfume which features tomato leaf

  • Dina C. says:

    Gorgeous, evocative essay today Anita. Loved it. I have memories of fresh tomatoes in BLT sandwiches all through my childhood and adulthood. They’re still a favorite. We were a military family who moved around, so we never bothered with things like a vegetable garden. But as a grown up theatre kid and musical lover, I totally agree on the poignant, wistful quality of Sondheim’s music, his lyrics, those storylines. A few years back, a local HS did an award-winning production of “Merrily We Roll Along,” which I had never seen, and my daughter and I still talk about it to this day. “Not a Day Goes By” is one of those killer songs. “No One is Alone” from “Into the Woods” is another. I can’t listen to either one without my eyes filling up with tears.

    • Musette says:

      Omgosh – have you seen Bernadette Peters’s rendition of ‘Not a Day Goes By’ for the Sondheim 80th? Omg. chilling. And I’m with you on ‘No One is Alone’ – what a terrifyingly beautiful song.

      Y’know… I wonder if Sondheim is just a jolly old soul, whistling a happy tune as he bops through the house… since, obviously, he exorcises Every Single Demon he comes across – in a song.

      xoxoxo

      • Dina C. says:

        My daughter says he is the Josh Weedon of musicals. 😀 Like, he has to destroy his viewers’ lives, wrecking emotional havoc! I went and viewed that Donna Murphy song, and she was utterly brilliant. Perfection with her sarcastic delivery. I love how Bernadette Peters does Sondheim. xoxoxoxo

        • Musette says:

          Your daughter is right! Sondheim’s biography paints a pretty bleak picture of his privileged, but loveless, childhood… I daresay he comes by his life-destroying skills honestly!

          xoxox

  • Portia Turbo says:

    Hey Musette,
    We used to grow Tom Thumb tomatoes when I was a kid. Super easy and delicious. Wash them straight off the vine and into our mouths, yum.
    Had Hilde Soliani’s Stecca but it was WAY too much. Moved it on.
    Seems I like the idea but not the distilled perfumery soliflor.
    Just as an aside, my favourite sandwich is fresh sourdough, butter, tomato, onion, salt & pepper. YUMMERS!
    Portia xx

    • Musette says:

      Portia –
      if you have the opportunity, do try CBIHP’s Memory of Kindness – all sunlight and tomato leaf but not super-heavy. I think you would love it. I think you would love him, too – he’s such an interesting person!

      That sandwich doesn’t sound half bad, either !!! 😉

      xoxoxoA

  • Brigitte says:

    Love tomato leaf….Folavril, Pucci Sole 149 and Cassis en Feuille have it as a note and I’ve enjoyed them all.

  • Queen-Cupcake says:

    I grow tomatoes every year. Only way I’ll eat ’em fresh anymore. I do like to tomato leaf smell very much, reminding me of the times I’ve had to go and tie up more vines. I used to have a bottle of Annick Goutal Folavril, which has a tomato leaf note. I liked it but gave it away. I’d have kept it if it had been more herbal-grassy instead of floral-fruity. Now I’m off to look up that Sondheim song. XOX

    • Musette says:

      QC, you definitely should watch the Sondheim 80th on the ‘tube, if you haven’t seen it. It’s the BEST of Broadway, paying their respects in true Broadway fashion (Elaine Stritch’s “I’m Still Here” brings down the house!). But while you’re earbobbing around there, do watch Carol B’s scary rendition of ‘Could I Leave You’ – I still get shivers!

      xoxo

      • Queen-Cupcake says:

        Musette, I did go to the ‘tube and loved all of those! Peters, Stritch, Murphy…all brilliant! Carol Burnette is a national treasure.

  • rosarita313 says:

    Ms A I love to read whatever you write.
    I love the smell of tomato leaves – and tomatoes, although I didn’t like them as a kid – that’s because my scent memory is working in our 1 acre garden breaking suckers off the plants with the cold dew on my legs and the hot sun on my face.
    Then they all had to be picked, blanched/peeled/seeded so mom could make tomato juice, which I hated. But nowadays there’s just nothing as good as a thick slice of warm tomato off the vine with salt, pepper and buttered bread.
    Apparently I feel like writing a book today – favorite tomato leaf perfume is that Donna Karan Woman in the weirdo tall skinny bottle. It has jonquil in it, too. I maybe wear it once a year.

    • Musette says:

      you can write as many books as you like – you know that! Your comments are always a delight and omg! I STILL have that dadgummed BOX! dagNABBIT!

      I dunno if I mentioned this – but I thought about buying the lot next door – it’s about 1/3 acre and I was going to put a formal parterre in with prairie flowers (and a greenhouse in the middle).

      And then I remembered: I’m old, beat – and don’t have any money!

      xoxoxo

  • Cinnamon says:

    Oh, man, that’s beautiful, Musette. I actually do like tomatoes (but only fresh off the vine and in salads — I’ll eat tomato sauce but it’s not a fave). Stecca. I used to offer Hilde Soliani’s perfumes (are they still around — will have to look — Lucky Scent stocked them) on the website. Some were very interesting, especially Stecca. So, tomato leaf. Gorgeous. I don’t really have a garden in the rental (courtyard sized). I’ve got mint and basil in pots, and there’s lemon balm in the ground. I think I might need a tomato plant though…

    • Musette says:

      thank you for the lovely compliment!!! and now I absolutely HAVE to try Stecca!!!

      And yes – definitely a tomato plant. They are fine in pots – couldn’t care less!

      xoxoxo

  • Bee says:

    I love Sondheim too. Heartbreaking genius. Stecca is the tomato leaf frag for me. It always reminds me of the warm, damp, earthy smell in the Tropical House of a public parks Botanical Gardens – where I once had a ‘romantic rendezvous’ when I was a teenager. Good times..lol.

    • Musette says:

      oooh!!! that sounds… ‘juicy’ (heh. see what I did there? ‘juicy’. heh. okay – I’ll stop now.)

      I wonder what Sondheim is like when he’s at home. Maybe a beer & brats kinda guy? No? Probably not.

      xoxoxo

  • OTA Mom says:

    I like the smell of tomato leaf and recently purchased Nir Guy’s L’Ima perfume. Hilde Soliani’s Stecca is also a great tomato leaf scent. Apple and plum blossom fragrances for me are always the reminders of my carefree childhood.

    • Musette says:

      I really have to get out more – until today I had no idea that either of these perfumes existed!

      Oooh! Apple blossom – is there anything more purely childhood than that? I think not.

      xoxoxo

  • Tara C says:

    I don’t have any connection with tomato leaf smells, I’m more of a spring pea person (grandma’s garden, pulling pea pods off the vine and eating them). But I’m with you on Beloved. It’s pure magic, along with Fate.