Personal response in which you compare a childhood experience of your own to one of Lynda Barry’s. Who was involved in the experience, and what happened? What did it teach you, and how did it shape who you became as an adult?
In Lynda Barry’s “One! Hundred! Demons!” there is a chapter that refers to the scents of people’s houses. N’ako, the main character, remarks the smells of people’s houses that she has been to. There is one house with a cat lady, one with a disinfecting air freshener person, one that smelled like mint, tangerines and books, along with her own house. This chapter seems like a childish and naive observation, but the way the chapter progresses along with the animation depicting the way scents were experienced suggests that there was more meaning the the chapter than merely the scents of people’s houses from the point of view of a child. It is suggested that the book’s characters and N’ako’s interpretations of them were dependant on the smell of their houses.
As a chef, smell is a very important part of my life. It is able to help me identify if something will cause harm if ingested and it is able to hint at the presence of deliciousness. From studying organic chemistry, I have also learned that our understanding about the way smell is processed in the brain is still very limited. There are molecules that can look almost identical and have totally different smells, as well as molecules that look very different from each other and smell almost identical. It is not yet well understood how the brain processes scents and so all we have to go on for now is the way we feel about certain smells.
Scents evoke memories. When you walk by St-Viateur street it smells like the first time someone brought you there for bagels. It does smell like bagels, but what your brain reminds you of is the memory associated with the experience of that smell rather than the bagel itself.
When I was a child, I enjoyed playing outside in the winter. I would often go skating on outdoor ice rinks, and play in the snow. It would not matter very much at all what I was doing outside. Sometimes I would just walk around in the forest during the night with friends or with my brother. We would talk about things, and sort of have a philosophical conversation, to the extent that children can. Sometimes I would go skiing with my dad. When I was young, I didn’t see my dad very often, and it was always fun when I got to spend some time with him. Whenever we were outside skiing together I felt a sense of happiness. At twenty-two years of age, I still enjoy the cold winter and usually benefit from this season by playing hockey outside. When I tie up my skates, and start skating outside, I get these childhood memories that come back out of nowhere some times. I realize that what is evoking these memories, is the smell of the outdoors. It is difficult to explain this scent, but it’s almost as if the ice and snow being around me is what I smell. I get the same feeling when I walk outside of my house on a cold crisp morning. This sudden sense of happiness comes to me and I think about hockey, and get the feeling of happiness I would often get as a child.
This has affected my life specifically in the way that I cook. I often reflect about the ways scents make me feel and think about myself, and I don’t really understand why, but I’ve always been fascinated by this and almost obsessed to search for a way that I can evoke memories in people with my cooking. I have given a lot of though to this, and any time I am cooking creatively and independently, I try to have certain general memories in mind, and try to use ingredients to generate a formation of memories in people. I know that in some ways this does not seem very realistic, since we all have different associations with memories. That is why I try to make very general associations, with the understanding that my memories will not reach everyone, but maybe one or more people will feel the memory that my food reminded them of, this is what I’m hoping to achieve. And if I’d be able to achieve this with at least one person, what would it say about the connection between this person and myself? Would they even tell me, or anyone, about the memories the food was bringing to their minds? Would they even be able to realize that the smell of food was evoking their childhood memories? What is the purpose of these memories, do they perhaps bring us a sense of happiness or fulfilment?