Sarah Brown once said she had a theory that for every single person on the planet, there’s a sentence that if it were said to them by the right person or at the right time with the right words, everything in their life would right itself from that point forward. (If I remember correctly, my sentence was “Wow, you don’t dance like a white girl at ALL.”)


But, being the food-obsessed type that I am, I wonder if that sentence could be a taste, or that taste a smell. I believe that there are sensory experiences that get tucked places we forget about, and we wander around looking for things to lure them back into the present. We just want it back — for even a split second — because things in the moments that follow seem to fall more smoothly into place.


For me, it’s this: the damp spot on top of a ripe tomato when you twist the vine off. It smells like summer to me, back when tomatoes came free from our backyard and not at surprising sums from Holland; it smells like basil, like lawn, and it’s the first thing I stick my nose in when I get the tomatoes home from the store.


What’s yours?

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29 comments on summer

  1. Its just like music.. a certain song brings you to a moment in time and for a period of time after that, all seems right with the world.

    I have to agree with you on the tomatoes… for summer
    The taste of a strawberry for early summer
    The sight of Daffodils for spring
    The smell of the ocean to totally “center” myself

    and of course Pumpkin Pie for the holidays!

  2. I only went berry picking once…but it’s the smell of berry sweetness and the juice stains and stickiness on your hands once you’ve finished harvesting. That’s summer to me :)

    I absolutely adore your photos – those tomatoes look amazing…

  3. I would have to say brown sugar-crusted sweet potato pie on Thanksgiving. It’s everything sweet and delicious and we only have it once a year. Whenever, where ever I smell dark brown sugar that’s a bit burnt, I think of my family, crouched around my grandma’s kitchen table, inhaling at warp speed.

    Your writing is beautiful Deb. This site is excellent!

  4. I think the smell of bread baking in the oven has got to be one of the most comforting to me. My mom bakes bread, so it reminds me of her, and it makes me slow down, appreciate the moment, and the whole process is so sensory-intensive. There are so many though, it’s hard….the smell of fresh cut grass, the sound waves crashing on the beach, the feel of the cool fall air. There are so many of these wonderous moments in life. They are what make life truly magical, and I could never commit myself to just one.

  5. For me it a combined scent of several things blending together – fresh air heady with roses, gardenias and garden vegetables, mixed with the smell of something savory in the oven, lemon furniture polish and the faint smell of a long forgotten More cigarette left burning in the ashtray. This is the smell of my grandmother’s home in South Texas when I was growing up. Every holiday, birthday, and long weekend were spent there and that smell just mean “Grandma’s House” to me.

  6. Bacon, frying and coffee on the stove in the morning. I used to stay with my grandparents because my parents worked third shift, and every morning my grandmother would fry bacon and make fresh coffee – not in a coffee maker! – and the smells would pull me from sleep. I hope to bring my kids down the hall someday to warm breakfasts, too. (I’m living in their same house! Talk about nostalgia.)

  7. Val

    Yesterday evening I went for a long walk.
    A smell of fried chicken wafted through the air. I was walking
    with my husband and recalled how this time of the year we used
    to go camping with a lot of family. Everyone would bring a whole
    fryer. They’d cut it up and have a big chicken fry.
    Reminded me of the end of summer, thats when we’d go camping.
    Perfect camp weather.

  8. ann

    i’m a tomato sniffer too (that sounds sooo dirty). their aroma sends me into rhapsodies!
    my happiness would be a sound/aroma combo, of my dad in the kitchen making me mickey mouse pancakes
    that is my pure hapiness

  9. M

    The smell of wet concrete after it rains for the first time in a really long time. It reminds me of my childhood, riding bikes til dark all summer long.

  10. i just stumbled upon this post via the ‘surprise me!’ link in the sidebar (i think i hit it about 20 times today.. ah, mondays). this is such a beautiful little piece of writing.

  11. I have a few… the smell of the earth on the first mild spring day, when everything begins to thaw.

    The smell of a fireplace in the fall, especially when accompanied by a dry, crisp breeze and crinkling leaves.

    And a food-related smell, also one that inspired one of my brother’s tattoos… the combination of cigarettes and bacon. (Similar to Kristina’s comment above, I suppose!) Cigarettes – gross, right? Except for the memories they recall. My paternal grandmother was a smoker, and everything she cooked, it seemed, involved bacon. No matter when we’d go over to their house, even if no bacon was being served, there was still a tinge of it in the air. Aside from holiday meals, we’d always have either “Mom-mom chili” (ground beef chili with kidney beans and bacon) or “Mom-mom meatloaf” (meatloaf topped with bacon). Throw in a bit of “18th century Chester County, PA home” smell, and you have childhood comfort and happiness, all over again. At least for me. :)

  12. purpleobsessive

    mine would be the smell of a fresh cut lemon. How you can feel the juice tingling at your finger tips and remember how good the finished product will be.(lemonade of course)

  13. G.guess

    Got across this question and thought for a while…since I grew up in countryside the smells of the fresh fruit, vegies and berries was so overpowered of the cooked ones…i guess the smell of fresh apples is the closest memories of the childhood and then the baked ones,simply dusted with sugar and fresh glass of milk is the biggest nostalgia of all!!!
    As for the seasons.. Each brings out something for me…fall with apples and potato pancakes with warm honey…winter mostly cabbage soup…or fried bacon with freshly baked sweet and sour bread…spring with whipped up omlets simply covered in chives, first rhubarb carameled souce with sour cream jello and summer…cold vegie soups…berries fresh from bushes or whipped up with semolina- my favorite … Yes the neverending list….
    Love your blog so much that I cook every week something from here! I am patiently lining up with people waiting for the cookbook…best luck with that and keep up bloging…you are one of tje best from all the bloggers out there! Love to all family

  14. Katherine

    Hmm, the first crisp, sunny fall morning that smells like Fall makes my heart long for my grandparents’ home in a small Texas town, nestled among pine trees and fishing ponds. It’s hard to describe, but I can pinpoint the day every year. The homiest smell in the world to me is rice cooking on the stove. Something about it is warm and welcoming. And funnily enough, Lysol always makes me think of my parents and chuckle: my mom would come running through the house spraying Lysol everywhere when my dad burned dinner!

  15. Will

    I know this is a very old post, but I came across it after a few hours of trolling Smitten Kitchen for recipe ideas while “working” at the office. My answer: the smell of homemade Chex Mix, or, more accurately, Party Mix. My great aunt invented the recipe (no lie) before it was sold to General Mills. She taught my mother how to make the original recipe, and my mother taught me. The smell of Party Mix coming out of the oven is the smell of coming home from college for Thanksgiving break, of coming in from sledding down our backyard hill, and the smell of knowing you’re going to be too full to really enjoy Christmas dinner with the family because you just ate your weight in Party Mix without realizing it.

    PS I adore tomatoes too, and your excellent, well-written, and illustrative recipes have been helping me make the awkward leap from “It takes me an hour to cut a carrot” to “Oh my God, I think I just cooked something delicious and edible and it wasn’t ramen.” So thanks for that.

  16. Donna Smith

    Honeysuckle blooming in the Spring, new mown hay in Summer, walking through the leaves in the Fall, fresh snow in the Winter. And always: puppies breath and babies fresh from their bath.

  17. Sandi

    Garlic sautéing in butter. It leads to so many wonderful places. If they made a perfume like that, I’d wear it! And public opinion be damned, lol.

  18. Rachel

    Cinnamon buns baking, my grandmas brown bread, paska (Easter bread) baking…
    Magnolias in spring, warm strawberries in the field by my house, anything horse…
    All these smells make me happy and bring back memories. And the tomato thing!

  19. Charlotte in Toronto

    The smell of hay in the barn and silage being shoveled out of the silo. Bread in the oven. A wild blueberry field in blossom before the blueberries appear. Cool salt air off the coast of Nova Scotia. These aromas are heaven to me.

  20. EL

    Strangely, chrysanthemums which remind me of the scent of alpine tundra (which is where I’d much rather be than my boring house. With that said, did anyone else channel back to childhood after drinking Darigold’s old fashioned chocolate milk? if you did, then I suspect that you are over 40 years old, as it seems that by the time I became a teenager, commercial chocolate milk was kaka.

  21. Jackie

    Old post but there you are- sage, because the high school I went to was, at the time, at the edge of an empty, sagebrush littered, field and smells like going back to school in the fall and parsley, which reminds me of going in to my grandmother’s garden to pick vegetables for the dinner table when I was a little girl.
    P.S. Love the Surprise Me tab!!!

  22. Lynn

    I’m late to the party here, but for me it would be the smell of dirt in spring. So ordinary, so ubiquitous. And so magical and complex and full of promise.