Honey Scented Memories
The sugary smells of cookies baking in the oven bring about nostalgic recollections of the holidays. For me when I think about the holidays, I can’t remember the toys, the books, the clothes or the gadgets I received over the years but what I do remember are the moments I shared with my Mother in the kitchen. The sense of smell is closely linked with memory; more than any of the other senses, recalling certain smells can conjure up specific memories from childhood. For the longest time I believed my Mother smelled like snow because she was always outside. Still to this day when I smell the first snowfall I think of her.
'Golden and honey scented vapors filled the house'
I remember donning my little blue apron and my purple knitted ‘mouse’ slippers in the house that once belonged to my Great Granny. I would stand on one of our wooden kitchen chairs so that I could reach the counter to help my Mother make cherry flip cookies. I would make sure not to eat too many cherries so there were enough for the fourty cherries that the recipe called for. The feeling of rolling the portioned cookie dough around the cherries in the palms of your hands was like playing with Playdough that wasn’t quite as adhesive. The cherry juice made it a challenge sometimes to close the edges into a perfect ball. I would watch through the small rectangular window on the oven door as the small round cookies turned golden and the honey scented vapors filled the house. We mixed icing sugar and the left over juice from the cherries to make perfectly pink icing to glaze the cookies.
Cherry flips were and still are one of our favourite things to bake, but we only make them and eat them during the holidays. We would eat them with a warm cup of Red Rose tea right after the icing was done setting (sometimes even before the icing was on them). Baking is always the best when it’s still warm. We take them to my Aunt’s house Christmas Eve after we go to the cemetery where we light our own ice candles at my Great Grandparents headstones. We light three ice candles one for each of my Great Grandparents and one for my Grandpa George. With cold fingers I play quiet songs on my flute and then we toast with a ‘warming drink’ to those who are not with us but forever in our hearts.
'Crispy baked hues of hashbrown casserole and and the
sweet scent of cinnamon buns and pineapple'
Christmas morning brings about the smells of left over ham, the crispy baked hues of hash brown casserole and the sweet scent of cinnamon buns and pineapple; and those cherry flips manage to sneak themselves into even the breakfast buffet of assorted aromas. Throughout the holidays, and after a big meal Sunday nights at Grandma’s house we share the cherry flips for dessert with my aunts, cousins, uncles and of course Grandma. My Mother and I eat cherry flips in our pajamas on Boxing Day at 1 o’clock in the afternoon watching The Sound of Music; along with other really ‘healthy’ snacks. We have them again for dessert for our ‘In-between Birthday day’ (my Mom and I have a single day between our birthdays during the holidays, so we have made a tradition of celebrating the day in between rather than two birthdays in a row). And we have the cookies again after Chinese food on New Year’s Eve. I don’t recall eating cherry flips much after the New Year, as I highly doubt there were many left by that point in the holidays.
When I reflect on the holidays I envision all the beautiful lights in shop windows and on the Main Street Christmas tree, the homemade drum ornament made out of a spool of thread and tooth picks from preschool on the tree, the low tones of ‘Silent Night’ being played on a flute in the cold and the delicious smells of turkey and mashed –potatoes that accompany family get-togethers. And thinking about the fragrance of a freshly cut Christmas tree brings back an array of childhood stories. As time passes traditions come and go but the smells of childhood remain with us. Our memories become less about the things we had or the places we went and more about the people we were with and how they made us feel. Just a sniff of almond extract takes us back to that chair in our Mother’s kitchen mixing butter and sugar with a wooden spoon; listening to her careful instructions under her warm smile and the subtle scent of snow.