I made a friend today – this is Don Juan de Dios, hard at work at 8 in the morning preparing corn in all different ways. The street is lined with people like Juan, all doing the same thing, starting before the sun comes up – it looks like very hard work, and I would say, because of the number of them, they can’t be making much money – but perhaps they do. They eat a lot of corn here.
That is actual corn. It’s PINK!
The large, flat leaves are what they use to wrap tamales.
Anyway, what I really want to write about is the smell. To my friends and family back at home, I wish you could smell the street I live on – as weird as that sounds! You probably don’t think corn smells of much but it does – already, to me, it’s the smell of Mexico.
Sometimes a scent is more evocative than a photo or an image. It is a primer for the deflagration of sensation, emotions, desires, uncontrollable atmospheres, deja-vus that flood and wrap us like honey, until they make us drown in an unrepeatable moment of well-being… olfactory hallucinations that lead us anywhere: to the North of any South, to the East of any West…
Scents are powerful when it comes to triggering memory, but, I think, probably quite overlooked. Everyone has certain songs, places, pictures or words that remind them of a time or event or person, but I wonder how many people can think of significant scents? Maybe it’s something you don’t know about until you’re there, and you smell someone’s perfume as they walk past. The only thing I can think of at the moment is my best friend’s house when I was in primary school – I can remember it even though I haven’t been there in years, and I’ll probably never come across it anywhere else. I’m just wondering whether that house still smells the same even though the family have moved out, or if their new house bears a resemblance.
I hope, in years to come, I’ll have lots of memories attached to scents, even better if they’re ones I’m likely to come across again (unfortunately in England, sweetcorn really doesn’t smell of anything)!
What are your favourite smells? What do they remind you of?
Odours have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odour cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.