Smells Like Hungry

cimg7067.jpgYears ago I read somewhere that of the smells that humans find most pleasing, roast chicken is number one. It beat the smell of bread baking, lavender, vanilla, freshly cut grass, strawberries, everything. I can’t deny that the smell of roasting chicken is divine, but I don’t know if I would necessarily agree that it is The Best; it has to do with context. When hungry, sure, the best smell in the world is probably roasting chicken, but when sleepy, the best smell might be the smell of lavender or of freshly washed sheets. On the same token, I don’t want to be smellin’ chicken when I’m in bed and I don’t want to smell laundry soap in the kitchen, but in the right context, each is equally as pleasurable. Vanilla, in its iced and creamy form, is lovely but doesn’t precisely evoke the pleasure of a summer day, where freshly cut grass would gain more points. Grass + ice cream = repulsive. But if you talk to someone who is allergic to grass, vanilla will rate higher in their book every time. Or what about someone from a non-western culture: cardamom might beat out vanilla; garlic might beat out bread. Smell, it must be acknowledged, is perhaps the most subjective sense of all and as such, how can anyone hope to rate one scent higher than another? Maybe instead of rating smells, it would be better to apply a verb or adjective. What does hungry smell like? What is the scent of learning? How does luxurious smell? (BTW, if you want to know what “cute” smells like, smell a puppy.)

So we roasted a chicken. We have yet to find a butcher here so were obliged to obtain our subject from the Andronico’s market down the street. They actually have pretty good meat- good selection, good quality, less than good price… But the best organically raised, free-range chickens cost good money because they gave up their sweet existence so that we may swoon with content at the smell of their roasting flesh. And swoon we did, especially one of us (the one with four legs) who guarded the oven closely while the bird was in the oven. I was inspired to make this because of Nigella’s description of her roast chicken in How To Eat. The way she writes makes my mouth water; I can practically see her licking the butter off her fingers as she adds it to the gravy. And then she describes the variations on leftovers than can be created from the remains of a roasted bird with words like “unctuous” and “melting” and “relish” that it’s hard to resist racing into the kitchen to cook whatever’s on the page. This was the case with the chicken and it did roast its way to brilliance, with, thanks to her advice, extra crispy skin and extra gravy.

For the first time ever, in the history of my existence, I did not make mashed potatoes to go with roasted meat. Travesty. If there’s any possibility of gravy, mashed potatoes must be on hand to pick up the slack, to sop up the jus as it runs off the meat and threatens to flood the vegetables. However, this time, not only did we not do potatoes, we did not do a traditional veg. Imagine! Instead, we had roasted garlic and shallots and Marc made some bright, chickpea salad. I’m almost convinced that a legume is the perfect halfway point between green and starchy; it went very well with the roasted meat but didn’t encourage gluttony, as a legume cannot hold onto gravy nearly as well as a mass of potato mixed with butter. I am almost convinced. I could never abandon starch.

And so, à propos of nothing, here is my Impromtu Top 10 Subjective List of Best Smells, When Smelled in Context:

10. puppy
9. fresh laundry
8. lilacs
7. peaches
6. sun-warmed forest
5. frying bacon, with coffee in the background
4. frying onions, with garlic in the background
3. roasting meat
2. rain
1. fresh baked bread

One Response to “Smells Like Hungry”

  1. Elsbeth Says:

    I must adjust the definition provided for the smell of “cute.” Freshly bathed, lotioned and diapered human absolutely overtakes puppy in this category. Baby Haters may wish to argue this fact so perhaps we can find common ground with “cute” = “young mammal.” Except for rats.