Maine Smells Good To Me
My Grandmother, Dora Gilbert, used to freeze her garbage. This was in the days before garbage disposals, so there was a lot to freeze. But she didn’t let that intimidate her. For Dora, freezing garbage was more than just a way to keep it from stinking. It was an art form. I can see my grandmother now, standing in her immaculate kitchen, a little Franco-American woman with permed gray hair, full make-up, a house dress, nylon stockings, sensible shoes, and a bib apron, carefully wrapping her garbage in little foil packets.
‘Course there’s nothing really unusual about freezing garbage. Not in my family, anyway. We all freeze our garbage. Having a garbage disposal doesn’t really make a difference, because there are always things that you can’t put down the disposal: lobster shells, banana peels, and the like. Even my niece Caitlin, who composts, freezes her garbage until it’s time to bring it out to the compost bin in her back yard.
By now you’re thinking OCD, right? Or at the very least, Felix from “The Odd Couple”? It’s not that my family is compulsively neat (though we are tidy). It’s just that all the women in my family have a heightened sense of smell.
At times, it can be debilitating. Like when a person sitting close to me in the movie theater has on too much perfume, and I simply have to change seats. Heck, I get weak-kneed if I smell spoiled food, and I live in fear of being sprayed by a skunk. I seriously don’t believe I could survive it. Cause of death: olfactory overload.
Conversely, my husband, Charlie, can’t smell anything. Why he hasn’t died of food poisoning is beyond me. God knows, I try to keep our refrigerator cleaned out, but as I’ve learned many times, perfection is elusive. Tupperware has a way of migrating to the back of the shelf, then out of my memory altogether. Or, I’ll make a recipe that calls for 6 ounces of ricotta cheese, which only comes in an 8-ounce container. So of course, the remaining two ounces gets put in the fridge, where it hides, gestating.
Makes me nervous. I’ll walk into the kitchen and see Charlie scarfing down something. “What are you eating?” I ask.
“Some of that chili you made.”
“Charlie, that’s been in there for a week and a half!”
He just shrugs. “Seems fine to me.”
“You, Mister, are going to end up in the emergency room some day.”
His response is always the same: “Ain’t happened yet.”
But, as disgusting as the stench of life can be, it’s worth the gagging to be able to have the good smells: sheets fresh from the line, the top of a baby’s head, lilacs in the Spring, cookies baking in the oven. Our little dog Scamp smells like sunshine, optimism, and unconditional love (Well, most of the time, anyways). Then there’s new-mown grass, furniture polish, coffee, bacon, and Charlie. Because even when he doesn’t smell good, Charlie smells good to me.
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!
(Listen to the podcast of Ida's column here.)