Pierre Benard Challenge Continued: The Beginning of The Season of Scent

Anyone who knows me understands the time from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is my favorite time of the year. The food, the friends, the music; everything. A few years ago I began giving this time of year a name in my head, “the season of scent”. Of all the things I mentioned above it also has a distinct evolving profile of pleasant smells throughout. I don’t think I would love it as much if it didn’t smell so damn good.

It starts on Thanksgiving morning with stuffing preparation and pie baking. The first thing that goes in the oven are the pies. Usually apple and pecan. While the doughy spicy pie baking accord wafts from the oven I am chopping herbs. The Scarborough Fair grouping of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. The cornbread of a couple days ago awaits crumbling itself carrying a hint of the buttermilk used to make it.

After the turkey is stuffed and prepared it is placed in the oven. I drink my first cup of coffee. The bitter bite a contrast to all the sweetness in the air. Now it is time to prepare the au gratin potatoes. I know most people are not fond of peeling potatoes. There is something about the scent of freshly peeled potatoes I find soothing. This surrounds me as I slice the peeled potatoes in the mandolin slicer. After layering the casserole dish I grate the aged cheddar cheese to use for the sauce. Warm cheese has an unctuous quality that someone needs to make a perfume of. I pour the sauce over the potatoes and leave them to go in the oven later.

Over the next few hours the scents of cooking foods fill up the house. It is part of the joy of the Holiday season because I think it provides a comforting sense of place. I sit drinking another cup of coffee breathing in the mingled aromas.

As everything eventually makes it to the kitchen counter ready to be served it forms the coziest feeling of the year. All because of its scent.

To those in the US celebrating Thanksgiving today I wish you a home full of your scents of the season.

Mark Behnke

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