Saturday, February 25, 2006

SCENTED MEMORY: #4, Helen and her Mandel Bread

I had a hard time appreciating the scent of almond when I was younger, always associating it with my grandmother's friend, Helen and her kitchen. To me, almond was the scent of a Jewish cookie, baked in an apartment that also smelled of mothballs and brisket. Helen would always manage to find me when I was visiting my Nana's place at Sunrise Lakes, Phase II. "Such a sheyne punim," she would exclaim, "come to my place, bubbeleh, I just made some mandel bread for you!" The cookie was hard and crunchy, and tasted sweet. It was like nothing else I usually ate (Stella d'Oro fudge cookies, oreos, graham crackers...). The aroma was the most interesting aspect - like vanilla, but yet, not vanilla. I would enter Helen's apartment and immediately the aroma would hit me - Whooosh! A Jewish kitchen, an active kitchen, a kitchen with appliances that were actually used (my mother would kill me if she read this...growing up she baked, she cooked...now the oven is a place to store handbags)!

As a teenager, exploring the world of fragrance, I can remember being unable to wear anything with almond, as the scent was just too striking and memorable...and perhaps painfully nostalgic. My Nana and Helen have long since passed, but recently, I've come to love almond and I think it is precisely because of these associations that it now serves as a comfort note. Maybe it's the actual chemistry of an almond's aroma, or maybe it's just the mandel bread.


And yes, it's basically Biscotti...But isn't it more fun to sound Jewish?

What's your favorite comforting food scent?

19 comments:

Cara-bellum said...

My God, if anyone ever manages to bottle the scent of waffle-cones baking in the oven, I ... well, I don't know what I'd do. Probably collapse in a fit of happiness and childhood memories.

marlen said...

cara - have you tried the Demeter scents? I was astounded by the pastry notes of Liquid Karl, PG's Musc Maori, L'Artisan Bois Farine, and of course the buttery doughy notes of Hermes Hiris...

Cara-bellum said...

Oh wow, I just checked out the Demeter site -- I had no idea they had that many scents! My local Sephora only stocks about 3 "bakery" scents. And I'll have to check out the others you mentioned. But I better make sure to go with a full stomach...

marlen said...

cara - one warning about Demeter: They smell absolutely delicious...for about 5 minutes!

Anya said...

About 10 years ago I designed a long water feature for a client based on the Mandelbrot fractal form http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=mandelbrot%20fractal&btnG=Google+Search&sa=N&tab=wi
When he held parties, we diffused an almond cookie fragrance into the air. I guess you had to be there.
anyway, hard-crack-carmel-glaze cinnamon buns are my madeline gestalt from childhood, the assertive yeast dough providing a rich base note. Yum.

Karenska said...

Just had to tell you that I LOVED your Nana/Mandel Bread story. Growing up as a nice Jewish girl in Brooklyn made me totally relate to that story. Now I have a whole host of aunts/uncles in Century Village/Palm Beach. All probably baking mandel bread every now and then.


Maybe that's why I love my Castelbajac and feel that it's a great comfort scent. All that almond probably brings me back to those simpler times.


Nice that you posted a recipe along with that great post. I may need to test it out.

gooderin said...

I adore Wedding Cake by the Body Bakery as a food scent. But when it comes to comforting food scents, I have to say I love Serendipity 3's Frrrozen Hot Chocolate Body Icing and Bath & Shower Gel. One summer I was living in New York and attending NYU and my beau and I went there to get some dessert. Upon leaving the restaurant, he bought me a Frrrozen Hot Chocolate set that included the shower gel and lotion. Both had such great, lasting scents and smelled exactly like the delicious namesake dessert. That scent reminds me so much of that wonderful summer in New York, not to mention falling in love with my boyfriend (we had only been dating for about a month at the time). I haven't smelled Serendipitous, but I've been tempted to buy it numerous times.

Oh and this is for Cara--check out http://www.thebodybakery.com/information.php?info_id=5
There is a waffle cone scent sold there.
There is also one sold here as well:
http://www.mmucosmetics.com/en/bathandbody/index.php?sid=546b6d6d25070557156fa26f101d9a2c
and here is a shower gel from philosophy:
http://www.philosophy.com/web/store/product_10001_10001_-1_55011
And yet more waffle cone goodness:
http://www.littleshopofbeauty.com/scrubwaffleconeus.htm
http://www.littleshopofbeauty.com/scentstick.htm

marlen said...

anya - I'll be over at 5. I'll take 2 please.

marlen said...

Karen - thanks for reading and posting! There are so many wonderful smells form my childhood...noodle kugel, matzoh ball soup, macaroons at Pesach...

marlen said...

gooderin - I love Serendipity and have been very tempted a number of times to break down and buy it, but my fave choco scent is still CSP Amour de Cacao! Love the hints of almond and orange.

Cara-bellum said...

Gooderin, thanks SO much!! And they even deliver to Canada! Yipiee! :)

marlen said...

cara - I represent the International Be-kind-to-your-credit-card Coalition...LOL

Rue said...

Oiy. Up until recently I couldn't stand almond notes in cosmetics for exactly the same reason. As a matter of fact almond and bitter almond was so emotionally charged for me, wearing it made me feel ill. Lately however I have been craving it. Maybe it's because I don't bake almond biscotti or marzipan cake very frequently. Maybe I should. I love cooking and baking and since my dad passed away nearly 6 years ago, when I miss him and need to feel him near me I wear Guerlain Vetiver and cook a big batch of lamb and tomato spaghetti sauce and end the meal with an espresso.

marlen said...

Rue - that's a very touching scentiment...

Rue said...

So was your post. I had to come back to read it again.

Rue said...

What's your favorite comforting food scent?

The scent of turkey roasting in the oven.

The scent of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven.

The scent of coffee percolating first thing in the morning.

Just to name a few.

marlen said...

Rue - yes! Turkey! Cookie Batter! Coffee!

How about dryer sheets, baby shampoo, cedar pannels, fruit punch...

dinazad said...

Well, truth for to say, my momma, who NEVER throws anything away (guess who I got that from), uses her old oven to store candles in. She does, however, have a new one for baking....

Favourite food scents?

Christmas baking.
Fresh bread (oh, swoooooon..).
First class tea, both in the caddy or brewed to perfection.
Fresh herbs.
Fried onions!
Perfume rice.

In fact, probably anything which proclaims: working kitchen, joy in food and its preparation, creature comforts, in short: LIFE!

Not that I'd care for Eau de Fried Onion Extreme....

The ultimate comfort foods for me are:
spaghetti and a glass of red when I'm stressed

semolina pudding when I'm sad (it reminds me of childhood and being cared for and cuddled).

Cara-bellum said...

cara - I represent the International Be-kind-to-your-credit-card Coalition...LOL

Ha! Well where the heck have you BEEN all my life? :P