A recent reader comment made me ponder that ever-important piece of human equipment, the nose:

My husband likes the smell of wood burning smoke, but I don’t like it. I asked if he had ever seen a candle with wood burning flavor. They usually only put good aromas in candles.

This made me smile, though I would be on the husband’s side.  I happen to love the smell of burning wood, but I find it is a scent with many detractors as well.

I even like the smell of burning coal, though I detest the smell of cigarette smoke. Funny how burning different dead plants can create such opposite responses in a person.

Chestnuts Roasting

Chestnuts, roasting

Sense of smell, or lack of it, can affect you in ways both serious and benign. Not being able to smell spoiled food or dangerous chemicals could get you into trouble. Not being able to smell, say due to a cold, can affect your experience of taste.

Not being able to smell can also be a blessing–when you’re in close quarters with someone who went a little heavy on the cologne or perfume, or as a non-smoker in a smoking zone.

To briefly tie this post into the Amish, I recently went for a jog during which I passed a farmer spreading manure on his winter fields.  I didn’t check if he had a clothespin on his nose, but I would have.  Spreading manure is a seasonal task for Amish farmers, and I guess they must be used to it.  Some farm stinks are worse than others, that is for sure.

Some people even have a permanent inability to smell, known as permanent anosmia.  Though that might seem useful in the above situation, I feel sorry for anyone in this boat.

One reason is that smell has strong connections with memory.  Have you ever caught a wisp of a scent that instantly took you back to a memory from childhood you hadn’t recalled in ages?

With Christmas around the corner–a time heavily associated with (usually happy) memories–I got to thinking about holiday smells.  There are a lot tied to the season, be it a special dish, the scent of a Fraser fir, or citrus.

My favorite holiday scent is probably what I opened this post with–the smoky aroma of a fire on the hearth.  How about you?

roast chestnuts photo: bittermelon/flickr

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