Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Every two weeks, the blogosphere comes alive with something called a Blog Off. A Blog Off is an event where bloggers of every stripe weigh in on the same topic on the same day. The topic for this round of the Blog Off is "What smell takes you back?"

In the book Une Gourmandise [Gourmet Rhapsody] by the French novelist Muriel Barbery a famous but unloved food critic lies dying.  Before he shuffles off this mortal coil, he wants to experience a certain taste sensation again.  The trouble is, he can't remember what it is.....

I think it's often like that with smells.  They can be very elusive but also very evocative and, once we identify them, they can take us as far back in time as we can remember.  For a couple of years here I'd been sniffing numerous tester perfumes in an attempt to find .... what?  That's just it - I didn't really know what aroma I was searching for but my longing for whatever it was became like a thirst.  I have a theory that this is partly a result of not having been in my own country for a long time.  Then one day I realised:  as a child I spent my holidays on the beach in Paignton, Devonshire and my Dad used to buy "Devon Violets" perfume for my mum, whose name was Violet.

I was last in Devonshire as a teenager in 1964 but any smell that is similar to "Devon Violets" takes me right back there:

Me at the Model Village in Babbacombe, Devon

Most of you know that I'm an avid reader and the smell and feel of books fascinate me almost as much as  their content. At school and at university I loved the smell of French Livre de Poche editions and I still do:

Then there are the smells I miss on an almost daily basis and one of these, during this particularly cold winter even in Sicily, is that of warmth. [Not heat - we get plenty of that in summer - but warmth!] Houses here can be very cold because so much heat is lost through long windows and balcony doors which are not double-glazed.  Many Sicilians are reluctant to switch their central heating on, preferring to wear numerous layers of clothing even at home so it is often colder inside than out.  I miss the all-enveloping warmth of a well-heated British home and the welcoming smell of that warmth.

I can't say I miss the smell of Cardiff's black beer wafting over the city from the brewery, though and I'd much rather inhale the aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans which fills Modica's Sorda district on certain mornings - not for much longer, though, as Caffè Moak is planning to transfer its headquarters to Pozzallo.

The aroma of Welshcakes cooking on a flat griddle was the smell of home to me as a child, in an era when women had weekly "baking days" and there were always homemade cakes for tea.  Here I manage to make Welshcakes on a pan called a testo romagnolo and I'll be preparing my next batch on St David's Day [March 1st].

My testo romagnolo - take off the lid and rack
 and you have the perfect flat griddle!

Welshcakes - Sicilian style

What are the smells I most closely associate with Italy?  The unmistakeable aroma of vanilla as you pass any pasticceria and, in Sicily, the lovely perfume of the jasmine flower - which is not unlike that of "Devon Violets".

Below is the full list of bloggers participating in this week's theme:


Whispering Walls said...

And the lemon and orange blossom, surely?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Yes, but it's jasmine that really does it for me, WW.

VTWorks said...

wonderful post, you have me craving jasmine :) and the beach!

Joseph said...

What you said about Welsh Cakes is rather intriguing. Especially since I don’t know what they are! But they sound divine!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thank you, VTWorks. you are very kind. Hi, Josep. Therre's nothing like the smell of Welshcakes cooking! They are little cakes with simple ingrdients and they are cooked on a griddle.

Raun Lauterbach said...

I'm with Joseph... I've never heard of Welsh cakes either Could you pass on a recipe so I could give them a try?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Raun. Yes, the recipe I use is here:

I use half butter and half margarine and at Xmas I used dried cranberries instead of sultanas, which was a success but is enough to get me lynched in Wales!


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