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Smelly Monday

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I have assigned one sense focus to each of the weekdays. Today is Smelly Monday, which simply means that today, I focus on how things smell. 

Today, I had fish for dinner, wild caught Alaskan cod, broiled with a dash of olive oil and citrusy garlic spice sprinkled on top. The fish was left over from yesterday, so it had that day late fish smell to it - not as if it were going bad, but just that it hadn't been popped fresh under the broiler. When I sprinkled the garlic citrusy spice on it yesterday, I took a deep whiff of the herb mixture, trying to figure out what type of citrus - lemon? grapefruit? The garlic was pungent, but there are other herbs in there, all organic. Lemon oil, lime oil, bitter orange oil, along with marjoram and garlic and a whole host of other plants. 

I am not an astute smeller. Per the dictionary "Medically known as hyperosmia, super smellers are people who have a heightened sense of smell compared to the average person." That is not me.

Then as an aftereffect of cooking fish in the autumn, i.e., I couldn't keep my windows opened because there's a nor'easter moving through with heavy rain and cold temps, my apartment smelled like day old fish. Prior to smelly Monday, my apartment had a funky smell to it anyway. It is a 150-year old building, but there are also about 300 apartments, and someone who's heavy into smoking weed lives in my section of the building, so there's often a funky, dope smell to the hallway anyway. Recently I'd bought incense at the local yoga studio I go to.

To me, pretty much all incense simply smells like incense. The two I have on my counter are Bitter Pink Ginger and Japanese Mint, and really, once I've lit them, I can't really tell the difference. When I hold the stick of Japanese mint to my nose, I can smell a woody almost tangy mint, but what type of mint, I couldn't say. Spearmint? Not peppermint - not sweet enough. The Bitter Pink Ginger is delightfully gingery, almost tangy, when I smell the unlit stick in the pretty pink and black box it's packaged in. However, once lit, they both smell like incense, nearly inseparable to me. I switch back and forth between the two, hoping that over time, I'll be better able to distinguish the mint from the ginger. 

While making dinner, I cooked up bacon while I was air-frying my frozen roasted potatoes, which I love, but which I am far too lazy to make from scratch. Trader Joe's does a much better job of the roasted potatoes than I'd ever do. The smell of bacon is like the smell of fish: it permeates everything. But since bacon is the food of the gods, I don't care that my entire apartment now smells like fresh cooked bacon, even if I won't have any until tomorrow's breakfast. 

While I've been sitting here with all these scents surrounding me, I opened the window to let in the smell of fresh air and the sound of rain dropping. For all the scents I've been describing, I really prefer the smell of fresh air and sunshine and new fallen rain. I'm not one for scented candles or glade plug ins or even the incense I'm burning. But winter is soon upon us and opening windows will let in frigid air, but even that is sometimes necessary.

I did realize as I practiced smelling today that smell and taste can't really be separated. The mint scented chapstick tasted like mint on my lips and I could feel the slight waxiness of it as I slid it across the surface of my skin. They're all intertwined.

Tomorrow is Tasting Tuesday, so there will be smelling and tasting and texture and all those other sensory components. This is a good practice for capturing all the sensory details I can. . 

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On sensual discovery

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I read something in the Sept. 6 issue of the New Yorker that intrigued me. Here's the text: "The students were instructed to sample nine types of caviar and a variety of olive oils, and do a blind identification of meats that had had their fat removed." (Sweet Memor, by Madhur Jaffrey, originally published August 19 & 26, 2002, p. 35n of the current issue.) This started me thinking about sensory detail in writing and the use of all sensory detail. I tend to use the strongest and most obvious ones: site, hearing, touch, but smell and taste seem to get less attention, at least in my brain and in my writing. So since there are 5 primary senses (and yes sometimes a sixth sense - but that's for another blog post), I decided that each day deserved a focused sense. This is how I've decided to break it down:

    • Monday - Smell
    • Tuesday - Taste
    • Wednesday - Hearing
    • Thursday - Seeing (thus the walking around DC)
    • Friday - Feeling

There's no particular reason for the order, just the Tuesday-tasting and Friday-feeling had an alliteration that would make it easier to remember. And that's not to say, for instance, Friday (Trevor Noah show) can't overlap with Tuesday (Indian food here in DC). But on Wednesday, I'll know, remind myself, practice concentrating on what I hear, even the sounds that annoy me or pique my interest or confound me.  


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