I mused the other day about how everything tastes so good here. “It’s all that sun,” A said, visiting us yesterday on his family’s usual weekly jaunt to civilization, as they’ve dubbed the charms of Ametlla. I have to agree with him: the intense brilliance of the sun works miracles on the fruits and vegetables grown around here.
But there is also such a thing as spirits of place. These same fruits and vegetables, were they to be transported to Bonn or Leamington Spa, say, would not taste the same. Same produce, totally different eating environment. I remember the same experience with wonderful Welsh lamb some years ago when I was still living in England: taken back to Warwickshire, roasted in the exact same way, its flavour was but a shadow of how our first taste of it was, eaten within site of the sea in a little holiday cottage. And my neighbour, Welsh-born and bred, also had the very same experience, such that she has never brought back any lamb from her hometown. Who knows what causes the change in taste: it’s only about two hours’ drive and kept in a cooler, it shouldn’t suffer unduly from the trip. And one doesn’t really expect meat to behave in that way. Go bad, yes; but lose flavour?
What’s brought this on? I’ve had a perfume called Un Jardin en Méditerranée (A Garden in the Mediterranean) for some time in Bonn but had rarely worn it. I’d bought it because it reminded me a little of the scents that fig trees and their leaves exude in the sun. Hard to describe, but it’s warm and inviting, and one that you get when you’re in the shade of a fig tree in the middle of summer. But in Bonn, it smelled harsh and artificial and so chemical that I almost ended up ditching it. I’m glad I brought it with me to Ametlla after all. I thought I’d give Un Jardin en Méditerranée another chance one bright sunny day. And to my amazement, that harsh chemical artificial scent that had put me off it all these years was not perceptible at all. Truly astonishing!
Here in the Mediterranean, a scent called Un Jardin en Méditerranée is in its true element; it’s at home. Perhaps with perfumes as well, there is such a thing as the right place to sense them properly, to sense them as they were meant to be sensed. In cold, usually grey and drizzly Bonn, surely even I could have foreseen that a scent such as Un Jardin en Méditerranée did not have a chance…? (Even if I’d bought it whimsically expecting to be transported there for a brief whiff of a garden with figs ripening in the sun.)
I do find these discoveries about taste and, now, scent quite intriguing. What is it about places that affects our senses so?