I remember the warm scent of baked bread as we ducked into Findlay Market on that frigid Sunday in March. We stomped the snowflakes off our shoes and followed the heady scents of fudge: cherry jamboree, pistachio, caramel pecan, vanilla chocolate swirl, tiger butter. I knew the aroma from vats of chocolate at county fairs and mall fudge shops, and from the rich sticky squares, wrapped in wax paper and sealed in tins under the Christmas tree.
There was a thrill in coming in out of the dew-wet gloom into the airy fluorescent interior under red beams. The aroma of cinnamon rolls and sourdough bread mingled with pulled pork BBQ and hickory smoked ribs, while outside the smell of wind and the rain-snow of winter lingered, waiting to assault us when, inevitably, we’d have to leave.
From Aunt Flora’s wafted heady spice mixtures and BBQ sauces, as well as cherry, peach and apple cobblers and savory pies. I sniffed at the honey offerings at another stall: acacia, alfalfa, eucalyptus and orange blossom, wildflower. Fresh brewed coffee aromas swirled around in flavors of butter pecan, amaretto, butter rum and caramel, English toffee and hazelnut.
It was the breads that beckoned, insistent. We were helpless to resist the jalapeño cheese bread, but I could have bought all of their promised warmth: banana pepper cheese bread, foccacia, jala bread, olive garlic cheese, pesto feta. These were breads baked in wood fired blue stone ovens. The air swirled with their warmth, like my grandmother’s kitchen, like the huge bakery operation on a Petersburg street, like Parisian and Austrian bakeries with their croissants and apple strudels.
There was the exotic smell of olive oil and vinegar, hinting of olive groves along the Camino de Santiago and in Tuscany. Babuska Pierogies stuffed with potato sauerkraut, cabbage, and butternut squash-basil took us to Christmas Eves around the table with Nana’s homemade pierogies, her German and my father-in-law’s Ukrainian heritage served on a steaming platter.
And then the produce stands sketched in rainbow colors: salad greens, ripening fruit, melons, root vegetables, green beans, garlic, onions, stemmed herbs of sage, lemon verbena, tarragon, and crushed mint leaves.
I breathed the mixed odors of homemade soaps in lavender and rosemary, aloe and clover, crisp anjou pear, apricot freesia, chai, rose and plumeria, and dreamed of a claw foot bathtub with steaming water and raw skin rubbed with a scented and foaming loofah sponge.
I remember yet the astonishing smell of blood at the butcher’s, the fresh Amish turkey, raw chicken and red beef, and the smoky smell of cured meats. Yes, the Caribbean jerk and the Mediterranean lamb burgers, and, nearby, the papery translucence of dried flowers and grasses, fresh flowers and potpourri.
The smells took me to olive groves and dairy farms and pastures of loamy soil, to cow dung and chickens pecking at seed on the ground, to hogs wallowing in mud, to the places on earth where the richness of what fills us up is abundant and astonishing.
We bought cheesecake with waffle crusts (strawberry and key lime, cinnamon honey), and wild rice salad to accompany our jalapeño cheese bread. We packed these things into paper and plastic bags, and, loaded up with nourishment, we nudged ourselves back into the cold, the sweet and ozone-laden air, the winter smell of wet brick and wood, the drenched sidewalks and asphalt, the swirling exhaust from the cars, the neighborhood after a good soaking. Under snowflakes falling from the sky at an odd diagonal, under trees frozen in knives of ice, under street art painted on walls, we made our way back to the car, where with one turn of the key we brought in the smell of igniting heat, of promised comfort.
Back in Covington, Kentucky, we went for an early dinner at Blinkers Tavern, where we toasted our winter holiday with rich red wine, accompanied by a roasted pepper bisque, garlic lime skillet shrimp, avocado crostini, micro greens, pickled red onions and truffle fries with parmesan, garlic, salt and parsley. We basked in the lull of the wine and the remembered aromas of our wintry adventure.
*Sunday, March 3, 2019*
Findlay Market is the oldest continuously operated public market in Ohio and the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. It is the last remaining public market of the nine that once served Cincinnati. Surrounding the market is 19th century urban architecture, with Renaissance Revival, Greek Revival, Queen Anne, and Italianate all making an appearance (Walking Cincinnati by Danny Korman and Katie Meyer).
“PROSE” INVITATION: I invite you to write up to a post on your own blog about a recently visited particular destination (not journeys in general). Concentrate on any intention you set for your prose. My theme for today was smells, so I attempted to write about those in my essay.
It doesn’t matter whether you write fiction or non-fiction for this invitation. You can either set your own writing intentions, or use one of the prompts I’ve listed on this page: writing prompts: prose. (This page is a work in process.) You can also include photos, of course.
Include the link in the comments below by Monday, December 23 at 1:00 p.m. EST. When I write my post in response to this invitation on Tuesday, December 24, I’ll include your links in that post.
This will be an ongoing invitation. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂
I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!
the ~ wander.essence ~ community
I invite you all to settle in and read a few posts from our wandering community. I promise, you’ll be inspired. 🙂
- Aditya, of THE MILE SMILE wrote a post about a favorite Hindu temple located in the village of Subramanya, Karnataka.
Thanks to all of you who wrote prosaic posts following intentions you set for yourself.
You describe the scents of that market most beguilingly, Cathy!
Thank you so much, Sue. I love that word too, “beguilingly!” 🙂
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Looks like you enjoyed it as much as we did when we were there.
Yes, Pit, especially since it was so cold outside. Between the warmth, the dry air, and the aromas, it was perfect. 🙂
Beautiful descriptions. Now I’m hungry (well, it is dinner time here so that’s allowed). It’s the bread that did it for me. I live a good bread.
Bread is always the most enticing aroma for me too, Anabel. Thank you. 🙂
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So many temptations and you describe them beautifully Cathy.
Thanks so much, Carol. It was fun to try this kind of writing. 🙂
I’m so glad you got to Findlay Market! Thank you for story being there.
I love pierogies! Thanks, Christopher. It was such a cozy place to come in out of the winter cold!
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The most glorious evocation of smells I’ve ever read, and delightful memories they evoke. Vintage Cathy!
Thanks so much, Meg. I was inspired by a passage from Look Homeward Angel all about smells. I love to find inspiration in all kinds of places! 🙂
Oh, my, reading this has made me sooo hungry! Especially for the bread. I am trying not too eat much bread, but must confess it is one of my downfalls, especially the artisan type like you describe! Markets are fabulous places to visit and often wickedly tempting 😈
Bread is really a weakness for me, Jude, especially warm bread and bread with cheese in it! Every time I go to a market, I want to buy everything in sight, but I have to hold myself back because it’s not possible to eat all I am tempted by! 🙂
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