It’s 5:30 AM, and Returned-To-The-Nest Son #2 is in the kitchen stir-frying something with lots of fish sauce.
It’s the smell of coffee I want wafting through the house first thing in the morning, not that of rank fermenting sea-faring death. Warming hints of cinnamon and vanilla work, too. Shouldn’t Son #2 be out there baking me muffins?
Instead, he’s preparing some aggressively healthy Asian breakfast bowl to fuel his strong young body before taking himself off to the gym to get even stronger. It all makes me pretty tired to think about.
Now the rotting fish smell has new undertones – he’s slopped some rice under the burner on the stove. Whiffs of charring starch add complexity and a smoky finish to the dish.
And, now, my favorite smell ever – burning egg! I heard a few choice expletives out there a moment ago, when it sounded like one was dropped.
Have I mentioned my hyper-sensitive nose? I inherited it from my mother, who could always tell if I’d had half a glass of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill as I tiptoed past her bedroom door late at night. Her mother had the gift, too, and could predict the weather, diagnose illness, or ferret out a bad potato with only an off-hand sniff.
As inheritances go, it’s a rich one. The world is full of lovely evocative smells, and I’m attuned to them all.
But for every rain-drenched meadow, there’s a public vault toilet. For every polished leather boot warmed by the sun, there’s a mildewed sneaker. For every rose, there’s a skunk. For every bacon-steeped breakfast, there’s some kid abusing fish sauce.
Yin and yang. I suppose I did claim to be seeking balance in this new year.