I’m sure you’ve noticed it. As you approach someone’s home, whether it’s a house or a flat, you feel a smell, or more precisely a mix of smells that only belong to that particular place. Plants have their specific aromas and so do animals. We, humans, are not different. Our home is a melange of our bodily odours, the perfumes we put on our skin, the washing powder we use for our clothes, or the sanitizers we apply on the floor and bathroom surfaces.
But a large portion of that distinct smell emanating from behind the door of our homes is made up by what we eat. I’m sure you can tell what your neighbours are having for lunch from the aromas that come out from their kitchens, even in winter months when the windows are closed. I know when they are pickling vegetables, making jam, cooking a sauerkraut soup or baking honey dough cookies. The last one is the predominant smell of Slovak households in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
When it comes to food, some smells make my mouth water, while others are less pleasant. I love the smell my kitchen fills with when I’m making or baking yeasted dough, like for this potato bread cake, butter rolls or shishki.
On the opposite end of the scale is fish and seafood in general. My body simply doesn’t like the smell of it, and it might be the reason why anything fishy rarely lands on my plate. True, Slovakia is a landlocked country, but we have quite a few artificial lakes with freashwater fish, and a lot of salt water species are imported from abroad. Fried carp or fish fillets have been on Slovak Christmas menu for decades. To cover the fishy smell, we tend to soak the fish pieces in milk before coating them in flour, eggs and breadcrumbs.
Sometimes our food preferences change as we grow up. When I was at lower primary school, I used to hate the smell (and taste) of fried sausages, cooked meat or cold patés. Things changed when I entered puberty. I happily gobbled down anything that was put on the table or left in the fridge. Dislike of certain smells and foods came again during my pregnancies: each was different, and each would provide its own list of hated aromas.
But let’s go back to smells that make us feel happier and more relaxed. It’s a few days before Christmas, after all, and our homes fill with scents of fir trees, spices, oranges and candles. Who wouldn’t love them? They kindle warmth, joy, love, the feeling of anticipation. Hopefully, we’ll get some snow for the holidays, too, and I’ll be able to put on my skis and experience the smell of the fresh air right after the snowfall.