Developing a child’s palate is not limited to cuisine. The scented world of childhood carries a profundity of meaning, context, even self-identification. That foundation is the reference point. What comes after is always based on, compared to, and filtered through those first scents. It is no wonder. Our olfactory cortex is directly linked to the memory center of the brain, the hippocampus. Sent becomes memory. Memory is scent. Developing a discerning palate in our children is a kindness and gift we can bestow.
Raising a child in the rich experiences of real scent, those elements of our natural world that give us such great delight, will serve them well. Our children will be better armed against the artificiality of a chemical-laden consumer world divorced from nature.
A child raised on the flavors of real food, the out-of-doors, and in a home environment of real scent will have built an olfactory foundation which makes the artificiality unpalatable.
In order to help a child to develop a sophisticated approach to considering what is, and what is not, of value (in any category) one must recognize that one’s own discernment will have lasting influence on a child’s cultural tastes and expectations.
The tawny scent of honey.
The sweet, bright scent of cold butter.
The sharp, resin-greeniness of rosemary, sun-warmed and driving bees mad with desire.
The prim, camphor-sweet of lavender, dressed in her silvered-gray, just as Miss Havisham would be.
French bread baking.
Orris root powder. Oh, the scent of dear, sweet scent of The Old South.
The summer tangle of limes, tomatoes, garlic, onions, cilantro, jalapeno.
The mineraly scent of a tomato leaf.
The vanilla-lemon of a magnolia in bloom.
The stately, delicate oblate leaves of the tender Lemon Verbena, the fragrant ladies, as my mother named them.
Night-blooming jasmine. The reward for surviving yet another southern summer day.
Cold-water scent of watermelon, which mommas send children deep into the yard to eat. (No dripping on this clean floor.)
Ladies in old perfumes.
Fried chicken. Upon which one’s worth (or goodness, or might) may be judged.
Biscuits cooked in a gas oven.
Hot cast iron.
Linen water. Smooths the wrinkles out of the heat.
Verdant-sharp grape flowers.
Tart scent of our fig trees.
Mulberry ice cream.
Summer rainstorm. Yes, please!
Jungles of basil.
Carpets of oregano. Smells like old cast iron pencil sharpeners to me.
Pert, uncharted forests of mint.
Honey-sweet beeswax polish, warmed and fragrant from the sun shining onto a sideboard.
Mossy green of swimming in the stock tank.
Oh, but this is childhood.