Friday, July 11, 2008

The Friday Five

The sense of smell is one of the most powerful memory evokers humans possess. Authors are taught to bring that sense of smell into their writing to ground the reader in the setting. If you say your heroine crouched by a bush, the reader forms a picture...but if you say your heroine crouched beside a lilac, that is an altogether different experience. Can't you smell the fragrant, almost too-powerful perfume?

My family jokes that I have a bionic nose. I'm very sensitive to smell. Thankfully, though I have a overactive smeller, I'm not allergic to perfumes, scented candles, or air fresheners.

This week's Friday Five is a two-fer. Five smells I love, and five smells I detest.
1. I love the smell of a wheat field just before harvest. When the sun beats down on the grain, it smells like bread baking.
2. Warm cinnamon. Whether in cinnamon rolls or wassail, I love that fragrance.
3. Old Spice Cologne. Call me old fashioned, but of all the male scents out there, this familiar standby is my favorite.
4. Pipe smoke. This is an odd one, because cigarette smoke makes me gag, but when I was a small child, my father smoked a pipe. He used to let us smell his tobacco pouch, a mix of smoke, cut grass smell, and molassas. I recently got to smell tobacco at Forestville General Store, a site operated by the MN Historical Society. It took me right back to my preschool days and climbing on my dad's lap to smell his tobacco pouch.
5. Sheets fresh from the dryer that have been softened with Downy. I love to climb into a freshly made bed, with clean jammies on, right after a bath. Ah...bliss.
Now, five smells that I can't stand.
1. Mildew. I am SUPER sensitive to the smell of mildew, particularly in fabric.
2. Raw meat, even when it is fresh. Going to the meat counter at the grocery store is a gasp-hold your breath-grab what you need and get out of there-experience.
3. Schoenfelter's. About three miles south of where we live there is a cattle yard. When the wind is from the right direction, well....ew.
4. Boiled Turnips. The smell is indescribable.
5. Fritos Chips. When I was a school teacher, I had a jr. high homeroom one year. The boys all played basketball in the gym before school and would arrive in my classroom as the bell rang, dripping with sweat, panting, and totally unfocused on school. And they Fritos. In the dead of a MN winter, I'd be the only teacher with the windows flung open to the bitter--but FRESH--air.
What about you? Any smells you like, any you can't stand? Any ways you can think of to help a writer incorporate the sense of smell into her writing?


  1. Hey!!! You sound so much like me. I usually see your comments when I read Jesse's blog. The homeschooling, even though my youngest has graduated this year, just about all of your likes and dislikes in odors are mine. I walk around the house asking my kids...'do you smell that'? And I usually get a 'no'. I guess I have that bionic nose.

    For some reason every time I walk into a certain grocery store the first thing I smell is raw meat and pine sol and want to gag, but it's my daughter's favorite store. The smell of raw meat has put me off and so we rarely eat meat around here And strange as this sounds,the smell of uncooked eggs also grosses me. Smells like raw meat and all I can think about are baby chicks. The pipe and Old Spice remind me of when my dad and grand dad was alive. I love to burn cinnamon and eucalyptus oils (not together).
    Feel free to visit my blog, because I will be back to visit yours. All comments are begged for.

  2. I love the smell of cinnamon and vanilla. Royal Copenhagen (men's cologne) is positively heavenly. Too bad Himself doesn't like to wear cologne. This Little Princess wasn't too thrilled about the animal smells when she went to her first rodeo. I hate the smell of bleach and the smell of the fish market at Mahket Basket.

  3. You're so dead on on the Frito's smell!

  4. I have a bionic nose too! My family can't stand it because it means that those candles they love, and all those wonderful perfumes and colognes in our house...forget it! Too much smell makes me dizzy. Oy.

  5. Women must have much better smellers than men. My family can't believe the things I can smell either.

    Walking near the scented candle aisle at Christmas time gives me a headache before I even see the candles. Some times I do use candles at home, but I look for ones that don't smell too strongly.

    My favorite smell is peonies. But also right up there is the smell of bread or cookies baking. Ahhhh

    Ewwy smells for me would include cut up watermelon (in big quantities, I used to work in a grocery store), it makes me feel sickly. And I live with all boys so I think that is enough said about smells I would rather not smell.

  6. my sister makes this tea during the week that is supposed to help her sleep better. But it smells absolutely horrible! I refuse to let her within 20 feet of me with that stuff, for fear the fumes might find my nose. ugh!

    One smell I love, the smell of my mommie's spaghetti. Especially since she's started making the sauce from scratch. yum.

  7. My grandfather smoked a pipe when I was really little. I love the smell because it makes me think of him. He died when I was 13. But I can't stand cigarette smoke.

    I don't have a bionic nose, just a sensitive one. Eucalyptus gives me a splitting headache. Rose scented stuff smells like ant spray. Don't live lavender, too sweet. Also don't care much for vanilla based scents or vanilla heavy. It's SO overdone. There are so many other wonderful scents out there that DON'T need vanilla mixed in.