Friday, October 16, 2009

Falling in Love: Scents and Treats for Fall

I’ve had the honor of being asked to participate by Perfume Shrine in a group blog about autumn; autumn scents, autumn treats. My favorite season is a sensory delight, so here are some impressions. (There are links to the other contributors posts at the end of this one.)

Autumn has left the building, and I really miss it. But they say there is no inspiration like longing, so here goes.

Here in North Georgia, we usually have beautiful falls. Our hardwood trees -- maples, hickories, dogwoods -- burn like torches in orange, red and gold. Our sky is deep cornflower blue. The air is still warm, except for the frosty mornings when dew crystallizes the grass, and it crunches underfoot. Soon, someone will have their first fire in the fireplace, and the smell of wood smoke will perfume the neighborhood and...well, dream on.

It started raining about five weeks ago and, essentially, it hasn’t stopped. Parts of Atlanta flooded. Little creeks became rivers, and roads washed out. The streets are full of pits and potholes. It hasn’t gotten cold, just soggy, and everything is covered with mildew; green stones, green tree trunks, green fences, green sidewalks.

Our beautiful autumn leaves? Going green to brown and falling off. Our warm dry sunshine? Hah. There’s so much water in the ground that, for the first time I can remember, we’re having a humid fall. Some say this is nature’s way of equalizing after years of drought; the lakes are full and the farmers’ livelihoods are saved for one more year. I guess I shouldn’t complain.

So, I’m going to remember past autumns. And cross my fingers. The sun will come out tomorrow.

Here are some things to love about autumn, and a few of the fragrances that remind me of them.

Burn piles -- oh wait. Those have been banned for years here. Too smoky or something. Take a deep sniff of CB I Hate Perfume’s “Burning Leaves.” I remember.

Amber perfumes; Serge Luten’s Ambre Sultan; thyme and maple. I wonder how maple syrup would taste infused with thyme.

Ginger gold apples. An early variety of Golden Delicious, available only for a few weeks in September. Sweetness, and the slightest hint of ginger. These make the perfect apple pie.

Oh, and Cezanne's paintings of apples, too.

The porch pumpkin. Right about now you buy a pumpkin, put it out on the porch, and carve your jack-o-lantern from it when Halloween comes.

Cooking with butter, knowing you’ll work off the calories in the yard.

Braising and roasting instead of steaming and grilling.

Roasted vegetables with garlic.

Returning to extrait after the colognes and EDT's of summer. Vintage Bal a Versailles, worn on the first cool night.

Nutmeg. Grating it over vegetables.

Indian corn, affixed to the front door, from September until Christmas season, when it’s replaced with a wreath.

Candied and caramel apples at the county fair.

More fair food: sweet fried dough with powdered sugar ("funnel cakes").

The dusty smell of the furnace, the first time you turn it on.

Crispness: crisp air, crisp fruit, cold cider, crisp leaves on the ground.

The smell of dirt as you prepare garden beds for winter.

Putting on my leather jacket for the first time.

A wool scarf, scented with a heavy winter perfume. (Amouge’s Lyric for Women comes to mind.)

Regional autumn: my region anyway, the American South.

The Day -- the first day you realize that the humidity is gone; go home and break out the early fall fragrances; Nuits de Hadrien (Annick Goutal), vintage Woodhue, Vol de Nuit EDT, sprayed generously on clothing.

Mountain festivals with lots of fiddle music. I can’t help it. I love fiddle music. Listen to John Anderson’s song “Seminole Wind” for some of the best.

Sorghum syrup, made from boiling grasslike mountain cane. This was the sweetener for the Appalachian poor, for whom sugar and even honey were out of reach. Mitsouko reminds me of it, in some ways.

Livestock barns at county fairs. That warm animal smell. L'air de Rien (MPG) or Rien, from Etat Libre d’Orange: unsweetened animalics.

Fried apple pie, sold at apple farms. These are a sort of empanada, like a samosa or turnover but with apple-pie filling. Ambre Narguile.

Apple butter, sold in home-canned jars at apple farms. All about cinnamon. Serge Lutens Rousse, pure cinnamon, but it’s in many other amber perfumes.

The resinous smell of pine needles as you walk on them. Parfum d’Empire’s Wazamba, CDG’s Zgorsk. As kids we would scrape pine sap from the trees and roll it into balls -- the stickiest substance on earth, impossible to wash off, but such a wonderful smell.

The rattle of falling nuts and acorns as you walk in the woods; abundance, and survival, for the squirrels and chipmunks.

The perfect gold of hickory leaves and dark brown bark against a blue blue sky.

Big bags of South Georgia pecans for baking, local-grown and reasonable.

Maker's Mark Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey, neat: it’s own perfume.

Piles of hickory nut shells on our stone patio, where the squirrels come to crack them.

The Southern Thanksgiving: corn-bread dressing (never called "stuffing") full of celery, onion, pecans and thyme.

My sweet-potato Thanksgiving casserole with a praline crust (pecans, brown sugar and butter).

Bright red hot peppers, still on the plants.

Mexican hot chocolate with cinnamon and a little heat (and maybe a little brandy, too): Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s Chocolate Pimient.

Bags of pine bark mulch to spread over garden beds to warm them in winter.

For other autumn treats take a look at these:

The Non-Blonde

Under The Cupola

Mais que perfume

Ayala Smelly Blog

Savvy Thinker

Notes from the Ledge

Ars Aromatica

Mossy Loomings

I smell therefore I am

Tea Sympathy and Perfume

Perfume Shrine

photo by Olfacta; all rights reserved.


Perfumeshrine said...

Hi there! So sorry for the floods and the muggy weather. We had a storm this morning, but it never lasts for long. I can't even imagine 5 weeks of rain...
Hope it gets better soon. After all it's the South right?

Love the memories past, the burn piles were one of my favourite smells as well. I wonder if a little pyromania runs into our genes, LOL!


Mary said...

Wonderful post, thank you! I share many of these wonderful scents as favorites.

Ayala Sender said...

Thank you so much for a wonderful post that transported me to the autumnal South. I could smell, taste and see all the colours, flavours and textures you were talking about.

Now I too wonder how maple syrup would taste infused with thyme!!!

There's something about seasons, it's wonderful when they arrive, but also when they are over and the next one comes. I'm sorry to hear your region is going through so much water, and hope the winter won't be as bad. The mildew sounds horrible :-(

Thank you once again for such an inspirational post. You make me want to visit the South, or at least pick up a Southern cookbook!

BitterGrace said...

I would never have made the connection in a million years, but sorghum and Mitsouko do have a certain similarity. And Maker's Mark does smell fantastic...

Olfacta said...

Hi E -- Sunday morning we woke up to blue sky, crisp air like a miracle. Maybe we'll have fall after all! Hugs too!

Olfacta said...

Hi M - Thanks! I enjoy reading your posts, too.

Olfacta said...

Hi Ayala -- Thank you! The best Southern cookbook I know of is "The Gift of Southern Cooking" by Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis. It's all there and the book won awards and sold well, so it's widely available. Good to hear from you!

Olfacta said...

Hi M -- It was one of those things that just came to me in an instant. We had a jar of sorghum but I spilled it in the pantry about 10 years ago. I call that "the great sorghum spill of 1999." So I can instantly recall what sorghum smells like, and Mitsouko, and those wires crossed.

ScentScelf said...

Way north in the woods, you can still smell leaves burn. Sometimes. Yes, it's illegal there, too. >sigh<

Say, I'm thinking we can prepare some Mexican hot chocolate (ever go shortcut style with the wedges you can get in some grocery stores?), switch over to Maker's Mark later on. Sip on those while we compare the crunch & smell hardwood leaves of our zones (maple here also, but oak, honey locust, a few elms, birch...) and see if there is a perfume to match a maple syrup spill.

That smell of the furnace...

You infuse some maple syrup with thyme, I'll run a batch with sage, and we can swap samples! :)

Lovely post.

Kathy said...

What a lovely and evocative post! I smelled burning leaves just the other day, and it instantly felt like fall. I live in the South too (NC), so I connected with a lot of your list. Now I can't wait for Thanksgiving and cornbread dressing and sweet potato casserole. We played with pine sap too, and I still love the sharp smell of it. Maybe I do need to try the new Serge Lutens - Wazamba is currently on its way to me.