When my daughter was young, she teased me when I’d say that something tasted like fall or smelled like spring. She emphatically stated that seasons did not have smells or taste. However, when she was about 12 years old she said, “It smells like spring!” With that, I knew I had won this discussion.
I grew up on a farm in Michigan, near the shores of Lake Michigan, in the heart of the fruit belt. Because of this, many of the scents and tastes of the seasons are tied to childhood memories of this time and place. Although some of my seasonal triggers have changed now that I’ve lived in Georgia for over 15 years, these connections to my past still resonate in my soul.
Spring smells of flowers and freshly turned soil waiting to receive seeds. It also smells of the vinegar used to make dye for coloring Easter eggs and of gentle rain soaking into the earth. For me, spring tastes like fresh picked strawberries, preferably combined with home-made strawberry shortcake. My mother used a slightly sweet biscuit recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook, and so do I, and now spring also tastes like this for Willow and Mike. New potatoes and fresh asparagus are also wonderful flavors of spring as are the pudding-filled cupcakes my siblings and I made with our aunt on Valentine’s Day, which could be either spring or winter depending on the weather that year.
Fresh-mowed grass is the strongest of my summer scent memories, quickly followed by wet bathing suits, and the dry, dusty smell of the air in late August. There is also the wet, heavy scent of a coming thunderstorm and the steamy air washed clean from the rain that follows in its wake. One of my favorite smells of summer is the sheets that have been dried on the clothesline in the hot sun. Summer tastes of homemade raspberry pie, not the baked ones that many people make, by one with a baked crust filled with fresh berries and covered in a homemade glaze that sets when it chilled. Summer also tastes of buttered corn on the cob, boiled just minutes after it is brought in from the fields. The ears are so hot that you need cob holders to hold it and each piece bursts into your mouth as you bite into it. Fresh-made corn dogs from the Band Boosters booth at the Berrien County Youth Fair is another favorite taste memory of summer days of long ago.
Autumn smells of air as crisp as the ripened apples being picked in the orchards. There were many vineyards in our area and to this day the smell of grape juice brings back memories of riding my bike past the grapes hanging heavy on their vines. Autumn also smells of hayrides and bonfires, and the undefinable but specific smell of dried leaves covering the ground. Apple pie is a big taste of fall and when I was younger we often served it with a slice of cheddar cheese. My maternal grandmother had been born in England but raised in Chicago and brought this tradition with her. She had a saying, “Apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze.” Our church’s annual fundraiser, a chicken pie supper, held several wonderful tastes of autumn. Fall also tastes of stews and soups, as well as the classics of turkey, potatoes, pumpkin pie, and cranberry sauce.
Winter brings the subtle, slightly metallic smell of drifting snow as well as wood burning in the fireplace and wet mittens drying on a rack. There is the aroma of cookies made with butter baking in the oven and the scent of the freshly cut pine tree standing in the living room. Winter tastes of hearty foods meant to warm the body and soul. It tastes of roast beef and Christmas cookies, treats only enjoyed once a year. It also tastes of homemade bread slathered in butter, the first loaf cut into thick slabs because we can’t wait until it is cool enough to slice into reasonable portions.
Some of these scents and tastes are of my past, but I have carried as many as possible into my present. Willow will have her own sensory memories of her childhood but I am delighted to know that I have successfully imprinted at least a few of my own onto her.
For me, each season has its own smells and tastes. What do they smell and taste like to you?
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