Day by day

Kitchen aromas bring memories flooding back

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My childhood memories created a love of a lived-in kitchen. My Grandmother Page had a grand home called West Bank Farm on Alum Creek Drive in Columbus.

I loved the smell of her kitchen and the entire house. Even though it was, at one time, on a historical registry of some kind, it has long since met its demise. But the memories of the place are as easy to recall as closing my eyes.

The kitchen was the first room you walked into at this 15-room house. The aroma was a mix of years of canning foods from the garden, homemade applesauce, and her favorite gum; Dentyne. Cinnamon was clearly the winner.

The ceilings were tall and the wooden floors covered with worn Oriental rugs. I loved the sounds as well as the fragrance. It reminded me of stepping inside an old book with its musty smell and great stories to share. Many a night I still fall asleep walking through the house in my mind; seeing the winding staircase, the music room, large screened porch where I looked out at huge trees and wide open land that went on for acres.

Good memories all.

About 30 years ago, we were house hunting. I don't know why, but when I looked at houses to buy, I always opened every kitchen cupboard and looked in every closet. What was I looking for? I'm still not sure.

We were looking at a house that was a little above our price range but we loved it. When I walked into the kitchen, I was met with a scent that was delicious, for lack of a better word.

As I opened the kitchen cupboard doors, I was met with one aroma after another. Spices. Coffee. Candles. Tea. I'm not sure what it was in total but my senses were in love with this house. There was more than scents we liked about it but today what I remember is that behind each door was a delight for me to enjoy. The kitchen had been loved with home cooking for years and it was obvious to anyone standing in the room.

It reminded me of the farm, on a much smaller scale.

We were disappointed to not be able to buy this lovely home, but we have moved so often, it might have been hard to leave. So it was for the best.

Unconsciously, I think I always wanted our home to have that welcoming aroma, for visitors opening our cupboards to smile in that same way.

Yet even though I didn't really know what the mix was, in my mind, I remember. But it's more than an emanating scent that that home held; it had memories stamped into its fabric. I realize that now after years of doing the same in our homes from here to the Southwest and back.

Again, like the farm; memories which are too many to recount here.

We carry our memories with us and at odd times they make it to the surface. The farm experiences are part of my personal fabric and the comfort of these soft pieces make all negative experiences less traumatic. Like a patchwork quilt pieced together one stitch at a time to end up with a complete quilt to treasure.

Christmas was always a time for baking cookies at my childhood home in Westerville. Sugar and molasses cookies, Chinese chews that were so sweet they made your teeth ache -- in a good way -- and my mom's famous meringues. How she is able to whip up those stiff cookies that melt in your mouth, is still a mystery to me.

If you were born into a coffee-drinking family and before it was sealed in bags, you must remember the metal tins of coffee. We opened the coffee with the metal "key" used to wind around and pop the lid off. The smell of fresh coffee filled the room.

My mom stored her Christmas cookies in used coffee tins. Now I realize that the lingering coffee aroma made her cookies taste extra delicious, to me.

My granddaughter sent me this email:

I had poured myself a cup of coffee this morning -- lots of milk and sweetener -- and the very moment I tasted it, I was reminded of you and Pappy! Coffee always reminds me of waking up early at your house and having eggs and bacon and sweet, milky coffee for breakfast. It's a really fun memory.

And the memories linger.

Local author Liz Thompson writes the Day by day column for ThisWeek News.

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