October 13, 2010

What's That Smell?

I admit I opened this article in the NYT because it said someone was having trouble selling a swankypants apartment in New York. You know, one of those multi-million dollar deals. They were having trouble selling because of a bad smell. Seems there is a truffle business in the lobby storing truffles, and the stink is killing everyone in Big Moneyland.

I thought to myself, "Self, since when does chocolate smell so awful?" I have often found fabulous little truffles on pillows better than mine in rooms better than mine in cities more expensive than mine. How could these perfect little chocolate explosions be a bad thing?

Oh. Those other truffles. The mushroom kind. Shoulda known, though I'm sick of the same word meaning two distinctly different things. I've written about this before. I don't trust menus for that reason: are they going to shave chocolate all over that pasta? I sure hope not.

But the smell is real, and the people are having trouble renting and selling units in a building whose lobby smells like "a refrigerator crammed with rotting carrots and lettuce. Throw in the earthy smell of dirt, half a dozen pairs of teenage boys’ worn-out sneakers and some stinky, stinky cheese." Awesome.

I can imagine it, because that is what my house smells like when the boys roll in with their friends sometimes.

I was raised in a fragrant house. My father used manure on the garden. An entire truckload of manure, every year. He grew tons of garlic and onions, and he ate tons of same. My mother, bless her, did her best. But is was hard to come into a house with the smell of blueberry muffins wafting through the air and not notice, just a little bit, the smell of sheep shit wafting in from the yard.

I find my green bin can get a little high. I prefer winter when everything can freeze. My dad used to trap squirrels and skunks and raccoons - and occasionally the family cat - out back by the woodpile, and pile their sorry little bodies out for garbage. Oh, be quiet. He was a farmboy who's been dead for 14 years. He's probably playing whist (ten points if you know what that is) with a bunch of squirrels as I write this. He never killed the family cat, by the way. And I feed those squirrels, so penance is being served.

In the east end of this city, there is a pork rendering plant. It's gross. I spent a summer working right next door to it, and we'd get sent home when it got too bad. I wouldn't want to live downwind. My Dad worked at Dofasco, and there were lots of houses in the shadows of the steel plants. That area had its own gritty smell I couldn't have gotten used to. Except, you do. I know this. I've known people who live all over, and the same way I'm used to being able to smell the lake - both good and bad - you get used to your smells.

My sister and I headed to the cottage on Sunday to close up. We took my niece, who scooted about the cottage declaring that it smelled musty. I smiled to myself. This is what the cottage, shut tight between times when we can get there, has always smelled like. For nearly 4 decades, I've loved this smell. Her 12-year-old nose smelled 'musty'; my nostalgic one detected only sun and rain and fun and storms and old books read and reread and black nights around sparking fires staring at more stars than I knew the universe held.

While we were up there, I tramped through the woods a bit. It's the time of year for mushrooms, and tripping over them sends up the peaty smell of northern Ontario as it prepares for winter.

When I read that article about boxes and boxes of stored truffles in some downtown building, I couldn't help but think of that real estate adage: location, location, location.


Anonymous buzzwhack said...

Been there, done that. One east Ontario city I spent time in had paper plants on the St Lawrence. I know that smell. It ruined the ambience of the nice Windmill college campus. I remember eating a Silverwoods ice cream bar and gagging whenever the wind shifted across the lawn.yechh.

October 13, 2010 10:59 AM  
Blogger OmemeeOzzie said...

Many years ago lived downtown in what is known as Leslieville (I hear Geets Romo's voice when I write that...)There used to be a rendering plant down at the lake. Some summer days (and nights) the stench was unbearable.

BTW, whist is a card game - don't ask me how to play it, but if I sat down with folks that know, it would all come back!

October 13, 2010 5:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ahh Fearmans....just the name sends shivers with memories of that scent. I worked close by the plant for years and it was gross. Worse too when you were at the light and this smell came over you and you realized you were beside a truck full of pigs one turn away from the assembly line.
But go a little further down the road and you might get lucky for a big whiff of Voortmans!

October 13, 2010 8:46 PM  
Blogger DJW said...


As in Pete and Geets?

He of the chicken-methane mobile?

Man you are old.


October 14, 2010 11:00 AM  
Anonymous Roz said...

Leslieville. I drive thru Leslieville to get to Lorraine's house but thankfully I don't live close enough to smell "stewed poop" coming off the sewage treatment plant. I laugh at all the million dollar homes down there and like to ask the people I know that have bought what they think of the odour. They all pretend they don't smell it.

October 14, 2010 12:01 PM  
Blogger OmemeeOzzie said...


Yes, DJ, one and the same. Lardette roolz!

And Roz, not the same area - at all. This one is east of downtown TO, and west of Ashbridges Bay....

October 15, 2010 2:59 PM  
Anonymous Roz said...

same Leslieville Omemee. Maybe I just have a sensitive nose.

October 15, 2010 3:21 PM  

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