Aroma and Sentimentality – Some of the Sweetest Memories are Made in the Kitchen

Memories, imagination, old sentiments, and associations are more readily reached through the sense of smell than through any other channel – Oliver Wendell Holmes

I’ll never forget the aroma of rosemary and garlic that hung in the air in my step-Nonni’s ranch house kitchen when I was a child and influenced my cooking style as an adult. The scrubbed wooden table, the food-covered counter, the smell of the herbs, the taste of the food, and the love in that room will stick with me for a lifetime.

Chicken with Potatoes and Asparagus

It’s no surprise, then, that kitchen aromas stir up so many of my fondest memories and I feel instant comfort when the smell of the herbs, olive oil, and garlic begin simmering in my kitchen — tonight is no exception. The aroma of the ingredients in tonight’s chicken dinner is wafting into the living room as I type, and I’m salivating waiting for the timer to ding. Almost time!


DING! Oh,  yum…

Speaking of aroma, I was messaging with my dear 22 year-old cousin, Samantha, tonight, after Anthony and I devoured this delicious meal, and she touched on something that made me smile sentimentally — aroma and memories. She mentioned that she often thinks of me when she cooks for her husband, and when she made cous cous recently, she was reminded of my home (where she spent many a summer weekend when she was a kid) and how my home smelled and looked. I was touched. Some of my fondest memories are connected to the olfactory senses: Nonni’s kitchen, Dad’s BBQ steak, Uncle Joe’s coffee. Grandma’s Turkey. Such bliss!

Sam (left) and me

That I could pass this type of memory to my cousin warms my heart.  To know that a simple aroma can invoke such sentimental memories in her as they do in me when I think of my elders and their kitchen aromas fills me with such sappy sentimentality that I want to hug my favorite old stuffed Snoopy dog, grab a cup of hot chocolate (except for the 90-degree heat here), and snuggle up with Anthony and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. Yes, I know it is July, but sentimentality obeys no seasons.

For more information, check out this story in Psychology Today that delves much deeper than I ever could into the phenomenon:

Smells Ring Bells: How Smell Triggers Memories and Emotions


Also, if you’d like to take a peek at the recipe for tonight’s meal, here is the link on Food Network:

Chicken with Garlic Potatoes and Asparagus