Scent of a Woman

It is said that certain stimulus to our senses like sight, taste, touch, hearing or smell can trigger us to recall certain memories.   For example, hearing an old familiar tune may bring back memories of hanging round the jukebox with close childhood friends at the neighbourhood soda fountain shop.  My wife has always said that smells remind her of things in her life.

I tend to be more a visual and tactile person and never imagined how a smell may jog a memory. At least until today.  Today, I came home to the smell of my wife cooking a traditional Malaysian Chinese sweet dessert called “Fu-chuk yi mai tong sui”. This dessert is made by boiling pearl barley (yi mai), soya beancurd skin (fu-chuk) and gingko nuts together.  It is sweetened with rock sugar and flavoured by the essence from pandan leaves.

The picture above shows a pandan plant with its fragrant leaves. For those readers who are unfamiliar with the pandan, it is used in Southeast Asian cooking to flavor rice, meats and desserts.  The flavor and fragrance is very similar to that found in fragrant jasmine rice.  Anyway, for the sake of this post, suffice to say that it is a very distinctive and delectable fragrance.

And, for the very first time that I am aware of, I had a most vivid memory flash triggered by a smell; the smell of the pandan leaf.  The smell reminded me of my mother.

My mother used to wear a really strong perfume which many people associate with her but that used to provoke asthma attacks for me.  So my fond memories of my mother is tied to the pandan fragrance cause it brings back childhood memories of being in her kitchen and pestering her while she concocted all kinds of culinary delectables.  She was a great cook.  Later in life, the pandan fragrance was still associated with her as she used the pandan leaf in her home made version of potpourri.

For me, the pandan fragrance truly is sweet.

Which of your five senses triggers powerful memories for you?


P.S.  Note to self.  Today was Deacon Day.


13 thoughts on “Scent of a Woman”

  1. Neat post! That sounds like a very complicated dish to cook. I have a pretty visual memory, so that is probably first, but scents trigger memories of people for me. Like the lotion my great aunt used to wear, for instance. Every once in awhile something will trigger a memory of a person from years ago.

  2. Nice memorie LGS For me sights and sounds trigger the memorie. When I hear raindrops on a window that brings me straight to a holiday at my aunts house and I just saw a picture of the swiss Alps on somebodies blog and I could hear the cow bells ringing again as we have walked there in holidays

  3. I think smell is a very strong trigger of memories. The smell of a diesel engine takes me back to the county fairs of my childhood in an instant. School glue (paste?) has a smell that will take you right to elementary school. And the weirdest one is sometimes brand new money smells like the cards that came with my “Dark Shadows” board game that I had when I was maybe 8 or 9.

  4. The sense of smell can be a powerful trigger for me. Seeing or hearing something may remember me of some other thing long forgotten, but only smell (maybe taste too, but it happened only one or wo times) can bring back a memory intensly. Touch does seemingly work not at all.

  5. Mobius,
    Hearing, eh? That’s fascinating. And I gather from your comment that it is sounds rather than songs or music that you are referring to. It would be interesting to follow you on your excursions into abandoned spaces to see what sounds catch your attention. You definitely must be more sensitive to the sounds that I would not even register.

  6. Evalinn,
    Seems like women are very attuned to smells and its link to memories.

    Riot Kitty,
    What sort of visual stimuli sets off a memory for you? Is it an object or a place or a landmark or landscape? Or is it more abstract like colors?

  7. Marja,
    Ah yes, rain does that to me too. Come to think of it most of my hearing stimuli are water related – like babbling streams, rain on a zinc roof or dripping water.

    Your examples were all very interesting but I have to admit that my mind was caught up with the realisation that there was a Dark Shadows board game. How is it I never knew that?!?!

  8. oceangirl,
    The smell of wood reminds you of the US? Have to ask where in the US. Oregon? Somewhere real pretty, I’m sure. Certainly not Los Angeles cause that would smell of smog. 🙂

    Yeah, I think I may also have had a couple of experiences with taste as a trigger.

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