The other day at the market, one was caught in the act of touching and sniffing a tomato that was supposed to be “open field”. The owner of the stall glared at us before hitting us: “Here, we don’t touch, it’s me who serves you.” Well, we went to help ourselves elsewhere where we could smell, touch. Because for us, there are no food provisions without appealing to our senses: it goes from country pâté to the bulb of fennel through the head of new garlic. As explained the Vidal on his website:The olfactory receptors in the nose and the taste buds in the mouth are complementary and inseparable. This inseparable character is found in the brain where it is difficult to distinguish between smell and taste, because the nerve fibers from the nose and the tongue come together in a first nervous relay which associates information before it is transmitted. ‘reach the brain.
There has been a lot of talk about the loss of taste with the Covid-19 pandemic. At a recent dinner, a man suffering from ageusia told us that he now relies on his memories to savor food. On this subject, we obviously think of Marcel Proust (1871-1922) mentioned by the perfumer Dora Baghriche in her exquisite the taste of scents (1) where are gathered texts by Colette, Emile Zola, Joseph Ponthus, Annie Ernaux… “For some authors, scents are a major and recurring subject, I am of course thinking of Marcel Proust, whose work In Search of Lost Time is full of patterns, like his famous madeleines, keys to “involuntary memory”, that which can only be accessed by the senses, not by effort or intelligence.”
Dora Baghriche speaks of scents as “life enhancers”. We want to believe it, but our food is more than ever trapped in packaging that prevents us from touching and smelling it: we think of gariguettes, cherry tomatoes enclosed in plastic trays; hermetically packaged cheeses. All these conditionings kill love which, moreover, pollute the planet which does not need it.
That said, what’s the point of sniffing a tomato infused in a heated greenhouse in the middle of January? It has no taste, no smell, it is dead food for us. While a good old munster that smacks you in the fridge, a freshly roasted coffee in the cupboard, that’s life. Add to that the massive use of artificial flavorings in the food industry and you get a clear observation: our olfactory culture is diminishing, becoming uniform like this awful perfume diffused in the toilets of the station. So touch, smell, taste everything that makes you want to eat and drink and remember this sentence from the philosopher Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962): “The smell, in childhood, in a life is, if one dares to say, an immense detail.”
(1) ed. Mercury of France, 2021, 8.20 euros