The New York Times has a fascinating article today about the human sense of smell. A researcher quoted in the piece offers this little at-home experiment.
Get yourself a bag of gourmet jelly beans (I splurge on the sugar pellets in bulk at Metropolitan Market) and taste each flavor. Then hold your nose and give the beans another pass. What happens? No nose means no taste except a bit of sweetness, right? It's no coincidence that wine experts wax on about a bottle's smell. It's intimately intwined with taste. (Although I've never been able to pick up on the tobacco or leather undertones that some wine critics cite. Maybe my sinuses need a good shot of wasabi.)
More from the article:
Olfaction is an ancient sense, the key by which our earliest forebears learned to approach or slink off. Yet the right aroma can evoke such vivid, whole body sensations that we feel life's permanent newness, the grounding of now.
Anyone care for a madeleine?
That last line is the one that resonated for me. I get a whiff of basil, and I float back to the first summer I spent living away from home as a young adult. I was interning at a newspaper in Springfield, Ill., and had been gifted a little pot of basil for my apartment balcony. It was the first time I'd been fully in charge of feeding and caring for myself, and my first homemade tomato sauce with shards of hand-torn basil was transporting.
I'm sure I have a thousand more sense memories if I sat down to parse it. But I want to hear from you guys. What smell sends you back?Basil sorbet with berries. Image courtesy of La Tartine Gourmande via Flickr.