i realized today, standing next to a homeless man, that he smelled like dried mushrooms. not that he didn’t smell bad, or that i didn’t find his trail and surround of body odour unpleasant, but the more i thought about it, the more familiar, and undeniably akin to that of dried yellow boletus or morel mushrooms. i am capable of this identification not owing to any exhaustive expertise, rather i just happen to have both of those mushrooms in my kitchen, dried.
so: earthy, distinctly fungal, slightly sour. it is interesting (or perhaps belaboured to the point of utter banality, although at the moment i find myself interested) how tethered are some tastes and smells to context and our own expectations thereof. obviously, obviously.
if one bites into an apple that tastes like roquefort, they will spit it out, presumably. and here i am, faced with a smell to whose properties i in other circumstances attribute comfort, richness and decadence , but in these circumstances i cannot help but wrinkle my nose and seek fresher air (not, i assure you, conspicuously. i do not begrudge the foul-smelling, particularly the foul-smelling homeless, their stink.)
i guess that much depends on from where the tiny particulates that are flying up your nose originate, and your attendant associations with them. to have evoked the mustiness of the earth, damp leaves and fall forests is more pleasant than stale, souring sweat and the best-ignored suspicion that this smell too could be related to fungal growth.
although, further consideration yields another turn – perhaps such a smell encountered in the course of the exploration of another’s body, in an armpit or other crevice, is more likely to conjure a happier association with the delicacy and satisfaction of the food. we can surely see ourselves smiling at the almost-vulgar and shamelessly honest (or at least a stylized, if put-on shameless honesty) writer who tenderly describes their lover “smelling warmly of wine, and mushrooms and rotting pine” or something. right?
Nathaniel West died in a car accident on December 22nd, 1940, rushing to the funeral of his friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
this is unrelated, but i do intend to drink to him on that day, if someone is good enough to remind me.
at a cookie party, maybe? or port and pie, falling as it does so close to christmas? who’s in? port and pie, and a glass raised to the fallen of the jazz age.