Last week it was almost 80 degrees. The skies were robin’s egg blue, the daffodils and pear trees had bloomed, the spring peepers were belting out a beautiful symphony…it was hard to believe it was the middle of March!

Today it is stinkin’ cold. Overcast. The frost has seriously nipped some buds and the wind is bitterly gusting away the pretty blooms. Oh, and did I mention? Now it’s officially spring.  Makes perfect sense.

Ah well. Since Mother Nature never seems to respond to my texts I guess I’ll just have to conquer the chill with something warm for dinner. Something that fills the house with comforting and inviting smells to make the family feel not-so-grumpy about being stuck inside. Even if they don’t LOVE whatever I make….the amazing aroma will do wonders with the savage I-don’t-like-this-weather-beasts.

You’ve heard it said: the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, eyes are the window to the soul, actions speak louder than words and music soothes the savage beast.  I want to add my own saying of the senses to this: Smells set the scene and guide the mind.  Yeah, I know it sounds a bit lofty…but it’s still flat out true!

Think about it. There are stores full of nothing but candles dedicated to changing the smell in your home. Scentsy dealers are popping up EVERYWHERE, and diffusers filled with essential oils are making a huge comeback.  One “Top 10 List” states that many of the most popular scents are food: caramel, coffee, cookies, apple and bacon scented candles.  Isn’t it interesting that even without the follow-up of a tasty piece of pie….people still enjoy smelling the “idea” of it?   Other people love having the scent of clean cotton fill their home, or herbs, or fruits or flowers.  These candles create a mood or a sense of being that people just plain enjoy.

I think part of the reason that we are so drawn to special smells is that they often evoke memories for us.  Sometimes it’s a link to a certain person; the smell of gardenia bring my Gram to mind instantly–she always wore gardenia perfume.  Cherry tobacco will always make me think of my neighbor, George, and how he walked up and down our street puffing on his pipe because his wife wouldn’t let him smoke it inside. The smell of wet pine straw and bark instantly makes me a kid in Georgia again.  Maybe its the smell of a certain toothpaste, laundry detergent, or even fresh turned soil that fills your mind with the presence of a certain person or place.

Sometimes the smell associations aren’t super pleasant.  Rubbing alcohol can throw my mind back to a sad hospital room pretty quickly. The smell of wet drywall will always draw out the memory of the weeks after the tornado. I’ve read that scents can even cause flashbacks for some people–and it’s easy for me to see why.

Smells can also set an atmosphere.  Would you rather buy a house that smells like fresh-baked cookies or wet (but clean! I promise!) dog? I’ve heard realtors say it’s a good idea for people to light candles OR bake something yummy before they show the house. I haven’t seen the statistics on whether or not that works….but I’d try it if we were selling!  And not to go all Betty Crocker on you or anything…but that’s one of the reasons I try to bake some kind of tasty treat on Mondays.  I know my kids and husband are going to be tired and probably grumpy…and walking into a homey sweet smell seems to take a bit of the sting out of the day.

The ability of smells to kindle memories is undeniably powerful.  Their ability to create a certain ambiance is also hard to dispute. Sometimes we can even get a two-for-one deal–such as when my son walks into the house on a freezing first day of spring, irritable because it’s too cold and windy to play outside very long, and stops–smells the air—and says;

“What’s that smell? I recognize it….”
What do you think it is?
“Smells like something I know….is it matzoh ball soup?”
It is.
“Oh yum.  Where did you learn to make it again?”
Aunt Bonnie.
“She would like to know we’re making this today.”

And he smiles and walks on past, happy with both the knowledge that we will later eat one of his favorite meals, and getting to spend a moment thinking of his aunt.

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