The Benefits and the Curse of a Well Trained Nose

Today as I was outside walking Shay in her normal sniff, sniff, sniff “don’t pull me along mommy I’m smelling everything” walk I just closed my eyes and took a big whiff too.  I could really smell the summer.  The overwhelming scents of honeysuckle with undertones of magnolia were the first scents that hit me.  Once of the best things about living in North Carolina is smell.  As we walked past our vegetable garden the basil and mint competed with the flowers.  Then I drew in the very distinct odor of the tomato plants.


Shay all along was concentrating on the ground smells of deer that had certainly passed through the property the night before.  I wanted to teach her to enjoy the beautiful scents and not just those of other animals so I dragged my hand among the sage leaves and held it to her nose.  She pretended to be interested in it for just a moment and then pushed her face deeper into my hand for a good petting.


From the sage I moved to the lemon thyme and then gave Shay another whiff.  This prompted her to go right over to the low growing herb and sniff around.  I realized she thought it might be a good place to leave her own scent so we quickly moved onto the grass.


As we walked in the yard the freshly cutgrass mixed with the clover top notes to make a familiar bouquet. I stopped and closed my eyes and sucked in the air hard, holding it in my throat like my yoga instructor has taught me to do.  For a moment I felt as I could smell the fireflies and the dust on the gravel driveway.  With my eyes closed I felt a tingle and the smell changed to something more pungent for just a second, then just as I opened my eyes to see if perhaps another animal was crossing our path I saw a flash of lightening and a few seconds later heard the confirmation of thunder.  I think I actually smelled the lightening coming.


Paying attention to smells has served me well in the cooking part of my life.  I’ve always been good at deciphering what ingredients are in a dish someone else has made because of my detective like nose.  I also have not done things that dull my sense of smell, which can naturally diminish with age and abuse.


The only problem with a well-trained olfactory machine is that if I smell something tasty it starts my salivary glands going and makes my brain think I need to not just smell something good, but taste it as well.  So for now I am going to spend as much time as possible with the flowers outside.  I have never developed a taste for rosewater and the lavender is supposed to make you feel relaxed.  So to combat any hunger pangs I might get I’m just going to go outside and stick my head in the gardenia bush that grows above my lavender and stay then until the feeling passes.   Feel free to come and take a smelling tour of my garden anytime your diets needs it, but I suggest you stay away from the sage which may prompt you to go in search of an entire Thanksgiving meal.

Faux Whiskey Sour – By Accident



I am constantly on the search for a non-alcoholic-caffeine-free-zero-calorie drink.  I gave up drinking almost thirty years ago and that is a story for another day.  I have since lived mainly on iced tea, but after 6:00 PM I need to cut back on caffeine so that usually means I am stuck with just water.


Today I made up a drink that tastes practically like a faux whiskey sour and satisfies all my requirements.  I was not trying to make a whiskey sour, but somehow the combination of basil and balsamic vinegar turns out like whiskey.


If I had an orange slice and a cherry it would look more like a drink on Mad Men.


This recipe makes one big serving


4 basil leaves

3 T. fresh lime juice

2 Splenda packets

1 t. balsamic vinegar

1 Cup fizzy water – I used San Pellegrino, but club soda is fine

Crushed ice


Whirl the basil, limejuice, Splenda and balsamic vinegar with a splash of fizzy water in a blender (I used my stick blender).  Pour into a big glass and fill it half way with crushed ice.  Fill the glass with the rest of the fizzy water.  Stir.  Enjoy.

Blueberry Basil Greek Yogurt Dessert

Growing up in Wilton, Connecticut we lived in what was considered the boonies.  The closest grocery store was at least fifteen minutes away and there were no restaurants except for a Friendly’s ice cream shop.    Actually, we lived equal distance between the Wilton Friendly’s and the Ridgefield Friendly’s, but we rarely got to visit them.  My skinny mother did not believe in desserts.   Except on Sunday nights after two of the three daughters had gone to bed.  Well, actually she never believed in desserts, but my father had a way of breaking her down.  After a weekend of hard 1970’s partying he would crave something sweet and she would succumb to his temptations.

So usually sometime around 9:30, while I was watching TV in the family room I would hear my father’s bright yellow VW Scirocco tear down our long gravel driveway like a rocket headed for Friendly’s.  I would have to go to bed before he made the 45 minute round trip, arriving home with two half gallons of hand packed ice cream, one always Butter Pecan, my mother’s favorite and some chocolate concoction like Jamocha Almond Fudge for my father.  My father, never one to live small, always gilded the lily with a pint of hot fudge sauce.

My sisters and I always found the evidence of the forbidden dessert on Monday morning when we opened the freezer to get a can of Minute Maid tangerine juice out of the freezer, but amazingly by the time we returned home from school the contraband dessert was AWOL.  My mother’s guilt over having ice cream caused her to throw away the devil’s due.

Having spent the day at school hoping to get ice cream for our afternoon snack my sisters and I got good at making desserts from things people don’t usually consider dessert.  Grapes, sour cream and brown sugar was a favorite, but cinnamon toast with a huge amount of butter soaked cinnamon sugar on top was practically on par with birthday cake.

Today’s recipe is something along the lines of a Carter girl dessert concoction.  It’s simple, and actually quite good in the best of summer ways.

1 cup of fresh blueberries

4 Basil leaves –chiffonade

3 heaping tablespoons Greek Yogurt

½ t. honey

Sprinkle of crystallized Ginger

Mix it all together; eat pretending it is ice cream with hot fudge sauce.