And A Life In Between

To smell or not to smell

To smell or not to smell


Today was a slow day in the office.  Thursday was a public holiday and many people grabbed the opportunity to make a long weekend and took today (Friday) off as well.

I’m one of the (un)fortunate few that was in the office today – fortunate in a way because traffic was great and I could actually get things done without being interrupted – but then again, getting up in the freezing cold this morning did make me second-guess my choice!

However, the day turned out to be not that bad after all.  With a bit of a jovial mood in the office it was just a matter of time before someone said the magic words… “How about a braai for lunch?!”  And just like that, within 20 minutes, a quick boerewors (a traditional South African sausage) braai was organised.

The fire was lit at 11:00 and with that first smell of the wood burning my tummy rumbled.  By 12:00 the sausage was on the fire and the office was filled with one of the best smells in the world – a braai!  (And the aroma of a braai is also one of the smells that induces the biggest cravings.  Doesn’t matter what you have lined up for supper, if you smell anyone else having a braai, that is immediately what you need to have as well and nothing else will do!)

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Boerewords and rolls on the coals!

Sitting there with a silly grin made me think of what other smells have the same effect on me and that also involuntarily brings a smile to my face…

So firstly there is the smell of freshly baked bread straight out of the oven.  YUM!  It always reminds me of my late grandmother on my dad’s side.  She had this huge wood burning stove and used to bake the most gigantic breads in there.  Maybe it was because I was very small, but I remember that one slice of bread was large enough to cover an entire plate!  But the smell… homely, warm and inviting… best served hot with the butter melting over it, but just as nice the next day with some Marmite!  I think I feel a bout of bread baking coming on this weekend!

But if I talk about bread, I have to talk about coffee.  And not the smell of any coffee… moerkoffie!  (Now to translate that to English is a bit tough – South Africans will tell you that ‘moer’ can have many meanings; some good and some not so good!  Let’s just say that in the instance of “moer” koffie, we will go with one of the Dutch translations for “moer” which means mother, so “moer” koffie = mother’s coffee!)  My grandmother on my mother’s side always made us moerkoffie when we were small.  It is a ground coffee, and she made it in an enamel coffee pot on the stove.  (Her secret ingredient was apparently the smallest pinch of salt!)  It was strong, but delicious with milk and lots of sugar.  And the smell – you just don’t get any other coffee that smells like the real thing!


Then, for someone that grew up in the Karoo (the Karoo is a semi-desert region in South Africa) there is probably no better smell than the smell of the ground after rain.  I don’t know if people that have grown up with water in abundance can ever fully realise what it is like to wait for rain.  Or what this smell means for the farmer that waited an entire season for it.  It’s an earthy, wholesome smell, but more than the smell it is also what that smell symbolises – reprieve, hope, renewal, growth.  And with such a large part of our country currently in the midst of a drought it is certainly a smell we can do with.

Flowers in Calvinia after the winter rain

But then thinking of the rain and soil, I can’t help to think of the smell of freshly cut grass – that is a smell of summer; a green smell, a smell of sunshine and warmth – and of my dad.  My dad has the best lawn I have ever seen; it can rival the worlds’ best golf courses!  Even now that we live in our own house, when hubby mows the lawn the first memory that comes to mind when I smell the sweet smell of cut grass is of summers and my dad meticulously tending to his lawn.

Dad’s lawn; this is during autumn.  So green and not even in the prime of summer!

It is quite remarkable, the connection between smells, memories and moods.  When we went to Italy a couple of years ago, hubby’s cologne of choice was 1 Million by Paco Rabanne and to this day when he wears it I have visions of Venice!  And the smell of lemon blossoms – my favourite shower gel – whenever I use it I instantly feel happier!  The smell just lifts my spirits.  Or lavender; for me it is a smell of nostalgia – it reminds me of our trip to Provence; one of my best holidays ever.

So power to the sense of smell, to your nose and to the smell of life!  What are your favourite smells?  Tell me, and I’ll smell you later!


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