Who knew that in the 17th century, before electricity, spices were used to tell time? True story.
Spice ‘clocks’ released the scent of certain herbs or spices depending on the time of day. I love the idea of mint o’clock to wake me up or cinnamon for an energizer around 4 pm! Maybe there’ll be an App for that soon? It’s likely not out of the question that a little puff of our favourite scent could come out of our smart phone at different points in the day to let us know what time it is. Smell is the sense that’s most strongly associated with memory. Perhaps a whiff of vanilla or fresh basil would do a better job than the clock in reminding us to get to where we need to be on time? It seems it could at least promote taking a deep breath at several points in the day – likely not a bad thing.
If you appreciate delicious scents as much as I do, it’s kind of fun to think about what your favourite scents are and how you’d structure your clock. Oatmeal cookies baking? A warm spicy curry maybe?
Learning about this spice clock left me reflecting on how various food scents mark certain times of the day. Here’s an example of what it might smell like around here depending on what time it is…
8 am Sunday – Maple Syrup. Childhood memory. Time to get up. Dad’s made his famous flax seed pancake breakfast. This is a scent our son and his cousins are now very familiar with from Grandpa’s pancake-making lessons. It was awesome when our 23 year old nephew (also a graduate of Grandpa’s pancake school) visited and we made him pancakes. His first words were “Yum! It smells like Grandma and Grandpa’s place in here!”.
7:30 am Monday – Apple cinnamon oatmeal is on the stove. It must be the start the school and work week.
3 pm Monday – Banana Loaf. The school day is over. Coming home from school we’d often walk into the house to the warm scent of home baking. These days, I love it when our son and his pals walk in after school and say “Yum, it smells like muffins”.
5 pm Tuesday – Garlic and Herbs. Big staples in our home cooking – whether a soup, pasta sauce or stew, the scent of these aromatic vegetables sautéing can be detected in our home at some point between 5 and 7 pm most days.
4 pm Wednesday – Mango or Vanilla. Kiddo is making a snack. At age 11, he’s discovered that the ‘secret ingredient’ in a great smoothie whether strawberries and cream, mango or a ‘Frappuccino’ as he calls it, is a little hint of pure vanilla flavoring.
5:45 pm Thursday – Freshly squeezed lime and mint. I’ve grabbed some mint from the herb garden and muddled it into a virgin Mojito I’m sipping while making dinner.
6:30 pm Friday – the grill is on! Whether fresh vegetables tossed in a little olive oil and sea salt, marinated salmon or souvlaki, it must be Friday (or the weekend) when the scent of the BBQ wafts through the air.
8:30 pm any night – The popcorn is ready to snack on!
Scents mark so many occasions from the very special to everyday. Freshly brewed coffee and morning. Bacon and Saturday. The Christmas season is full of scented goodness…Grandma’s shortbread or gingerbread cookies baking, a mug of hot chocolate after coming in from the toboggan hill, warm apple and cinnamon cider simmering. Summertime is also full of many deliciously-scented memories – picking fresh local strawberries, a perfectly ripened peach plucked right off the tree, the kids squeezing lemons into the pitcher for their road side lemonade stand, that fresh bread from the Farmer’s Market vendor…
Research has shown that taking in the aromas of great food may even help us be more mindful eaters and less likely to overeat. Scents can certainly bring back great memories of happy times and family. Teach the kids to take in and appreciate the scents of real, wholesome food. The scents of a happy life! Reflect on your favourite scented memories for some culinary inspiration this week!
Breathe it all in!