Chinese shops and the power of smell

I have a decent sized kitchen, here in Granada. But having two flatmates that are used to living without the third, space is scarce. I have been allocated a cupboard with two shelves and a shelf in the fridge. The cupboard has all the carbs: potatoes, pasta, rice, flour; together with any other food that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Such as my spices (cumin, curry, cinnamon, sage, rosemary) and such. Today I bought a ripe guava fruit and two cherimoyas, that the nice lady i the veggie shop said I should leave out of the fridge to avoid blackening and rotting. So into the cupboard they went, gently laid onto the potatoes. I do some other things, come back a while later, open the cupboard to get some pasta and WHAM! the smell hits me: the strong, intense, overwhelming smell of a Chinese grocery or the streets in India two (or is it three?) years ago. When I was doing my Masters I was taught that smell is one of the most powerful memory triggers there are. Yes, more than sight, touch or sound. The area that it works on is incredibly close to the “emotional” area in our brain, i.e. the one that helps us decipher, produce and associate feelings with the rest of the brain’s areas. I can only speak from experience, but smell has a very powerful hold on me: I tend to smell things often, I like to try and recognize tastes and smells and when I do they invariably remind me of something. And if they are new smells, they lock themselves on that moment and never let go. (What does sun cream smell like? The beach and being relaxed. Always.)And it works if they’re two or more smells combined, too, and the memory they link to is different than the memory of the two individual smells (obviously). One of my favourite smells is (I know you’re going to laugh) the typical “damp” smell (mold? algae? stagnant water? All combined?) always makes me feel happy. No idea why…maybe I should ask my parents if our first house was very damp. I’m sure it’s tied to some early memory that is built into my person and will never change. So, what’s your favourite smell?


3 Comments on “Chinese shops and the power of smell

  1. The smell of wet grass, or citrus fruits. The former always gives me a feel of freedom and hope towards the future, an everything-is-possible sensation, the latter a sense of general joy.
    Then, there’s a special perfume I bought when I first met L.! I always smell it when I miss him too much and I smile 🙂
    (I only smell it because they do not sell it in Italy anymore, I have to buy it next time I go abroad!)


  2. Pingback: » May Day: quello strano profumo

  3. Pingback: Belated Springtime Swap update! | Marghe's Blog

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