March 31, 2010

Scent of a Woman, My Journey in Perfume, a Beginning

“Gee, you always smell so good!”
Aromas from the kitchen, scent from the boudoir, flowers from the garden: fragrances everywhere! The beginning of my perfume evolution 

As a baker girl/chef, it is no surprise that I am seduced by scent. In addition to working with fragrance and flavors in the bakery and kitchen, I also dabble in candle making, personal and custom perfumes, and hand milled soaps as well as home fashioned incense and potpourris.

Scent is as much about memory as it is a woman’s special personal signature and statement of taste.  It is highly subjective and powerful – as fragrance is an incredibly indelible sense. All of us will easily and involuntarily associate scent with a time and place, a mood, a feeling, an ambience, a lover in our past or the comfort of our favorite grandmother - just as much as we associate it with our own personal being.

It is no real surprise, and then, that we cling to one or two perfumes and announce, ‘That is MY perfume’ – as if we own it. We might take a long time to fall in love with one scent but when we do, we are spoken for.
Most women are hardly fickle. We might get giddy over something at 16 years old, and, despite a myriad of other identity evolutions, stay with that fragrance for 25 years! Oh no, no…we will protest, when tempted with a new perfume,  “My perfume (ours and millions of others) is Youth Dew or L’air de Temps or
Chanel No. 5. That is the only thing I wear”.  To change perfumes is a minor act of courage and mild rebellion for the femme fatale without a cause.

Some of us, on the other hand, will wear whatever comes in the magazine scratch-and-inhale sample pages. Regardless whether it suits us. Regardless that everyone else is wearing it. We will wear whatever someone gives us a gift or worse, what comes as a promotion with skin cream. It can turn out to be a good thing but it speaks to indifference. Non - you must take an interest in scent - it's almost your soul's signature, here on earth.

I have my own views and my personal perfume history and this is but a sampler of my perfume roots. It begins innocently enough.....

As a new teenager, I got stuck on Heaven Scent, Oh De London, anything lilac and of all things, Elizabeth Arden’s Blue Grass, which in fact, I've recently returned to. I guess you could tell I was a flower girl, even then. In time, I abandoned all but the lilac-based perfumes, and graduated to Shalimar, which everyone was wearing at the time. No matter what people say about perfumes smelling different on each woman, Shalimar, bless Guerlain, smells like Shalimar on everyone which is to say, crowd appeal notwithstanding or detracting the awesomenses of Shalimar, is to say, it smells like a sexy love story that is irresistible.
But then and I blame the serendipity of fragrance fate, I received a sample of Ma Griffe and duped myself into thinking I was sophisticated (and hard edged enough) to call it mine. Heavens! So heavy, so sombre, so dark – what ever possessed me? It is only now, and this is in no way a sign of disrespect, I learned that Ma Griffe was created by a perfumer who had lost his sense of smell. Brilliant as deaf Beethoven, this perfumer went on to make Ma Griffe – a stunning perfume but geez – no one under 65 should wear it.

I segued to Patou’s Caline (now about impossible to find unless you are dating a Jean Patou sales rep, now probably a Proctor and Gamble sales rep), while on a brief perfume sabbatical which also included a sojourn with Chanel’s Cristalle, and Dior’s Diorissimo, which is, a field of lily-of-the-valley in a bottle.  I loved Cristalle (it's definitely a summer day at the office or morning after a night out and you haven't had time to change -Cristalle saves your arse)

I abandoned Cristalle when I became addicted to Caline  - I mean, if it was a guy, Caline would have been my soul mate, only to be truly saddened when it was retired to Jean Patou history. When perfume book authors talk about Caline, they wax lyrical. It was more than a perfume; it was an era.

Losing Caline was a real shocker, the first of many pivotal experiences that taught me what we all eventually learn, that nothing, not even a vial of perfume, is here forever. Caline had begun as an impulsive affair in fragrance and so soon, so intensely, I wanted to move in and marry it. Of all the perfumes I have ever worn, at any age, it played on my skin like a second skin, in fact. I did not wear it; it was part of my essence. I truly pined when it disappeared. Once, after years of doing without,  I did find a tiny bottle of Caline in Bergdoff’s in New York. But like a new sofa you cover in vinyl and don’t sit on, I did not use my precious Caline – I could not bring myself to use it except for special occasions. Oh but listen, it turned bad, what with exposure to light, humidity and simply non-use. Over a few months, it smelled quite rank. Lesson: live for the present. Don’t save, savour.

One day, I also conceded (for no real reason other than reading something along these lines) that Diorissimo’s  lily-of-the-valley was too young or too old for me – I could not decide any more than I could decide that smelling like one flower was a good or bad thing. At any rate, Diorissomo met its demise in my boudoir. Ditto for Lavender. But everyone thinks they should like Lavender – it sounds so nice! But I am no lavender-only lass – far too English garden-ish for me and too common as it is the scent-du-jour (discounting Green Tea) and is constantly incarnated in deodorant, room spray, hand soap, and car atomizers.
Then I happened on Caron’s Infini and I thought again, I had reached Mecca, perfume-wise. A more sultry, sophisticated scent you will never fine, but one, alas, that reminds me of someone about whom I cared deeply, and of a time so sweet and short but not so Infini, apparently. Which harks back to the stuff about perfume being about memory. See? You inhale an old scent and you go back in time and your heart similarly lingers. I take a wee whiff of Infini and tears can appear and a tiny, snug cinch forms around my heart. Which is a pity because I am relatively sure I am the last woman on the planet that wore Infini and now it is inevitable it will be retired. And so goodbye Infini and hello Calandre – a savvy scent but far too dark, heavy, and bold for me. Totally out of character. I flirted with Anais Anais and still have tea with it at times - it's lilies and lilies and more lilies - what's not to love.

One day, in a perfume funk, I serendipitously discovered the mysterious Arrogance and that is still a favorite. Why mysterious? Because, Arrogance, while still made in Italy, and by the same company, launches a new version each year of its same-named perfume. Oddly but happily, I like each version. It is flowery, a touch sweet, and exotic. It is, in a word, very me. Truth? It is no Caline but it is a charmer. I am entirely comfortable with this perfume. Which is more than I can say for Princess de Marina Bourgaine or something. I wish I Iiked it – it wafts mango and vanilla and is so fruity and pungent that you almost want to drink, rather than wear it.  Plus, the aging, Continental fellow who insisted I buy it also said I would be married within a week of purchasing in. As it turns out, I am still footloose and fancy free and consequently, for that and other reasons, I am not sporting that perfume anymore. I still read my horoscope; I just don’t buy perfumes (nor call a wedding planner) according to horoscopes or insistent salesmen anymore.

Wait, wait – I forgot a scent. Chamade by Guerlain. Gorgeous, feminine but it is an on-off affair Chamade (which refers to the ‘drumbeat’ or tattoo the heart makes) and I have with each other. If love inspires, you will inhale Chamade on me; it love disappoints, Chamade goes on sabbatical. In other words, when I am in love, romance and Chamade bloom. When I am not, Chamade taunts me and I in turn, abandon it.

Well, despite this seemingly winding trail of my scent history that might make you think I danced with many scents. The fact is that I too, was once in that loyal-to-one-or two perfumes category of women. I wore the same perfume for years. I had maybe two scents at any given time that I called ‘mine’.  I was steadfast. I was ….ah, well, boring. Perfume is a leap of faith. We change – we go from girls to wenches, to women, and goddesses and sages. I’m of that belief that our perfumes, like our taste in clothes, should journey with us, and evolve, as we are ourselves. Otherwise, you will be a 40 something still wearing Yardley’s Oh De London and Jovan’s Musk or whining at The Body Shop that they resurrect the now defunct Dewberry and not realize, you have by-passed your own scent.

About 6 years go, much like Rip Van Winkle’s wake up call after a long slumber; I similarly ‘woke up’. With a jolt, I realized –the world had a veritable bouquet of other scent possibilities. I could widen my field of fragrance. Suddenly, with that realization, I wanted to inhale the world!  Ever since that moment, for the last five springs or so, my birthday-and-scent-changing season, I adopt a new scent. That’s right, every spring, it is New Perfume Time on my calendar. No, not a time to tell a current man-in-my-life what to get me. Scent is personal. It is part of the femme fatale/goddess arsenal. It is girlie girl time. It is a date with myself. That being the case, I start my research early.  I go out on the hunt the beginning of March. I see what is new, what is classic, and what beckons me. By mid March, most of the perfume stores, and cosmetic counter ladies know me by name. We exchange chitchat about the kids. My pockets bulge with glass vials of samples; my coat pockets smell like sweet soaps; my car is littered with white, demure, cards saying this perfume or another.

By mid April, I hone in on 2-3 possibilities. But come May, in time for my birthday, and to mark the occasion, it is time to commit. And I do. By summer, the new scent and I are engaged.
So, where am I now, scent-wise?  The mood is light, the season is fresh. I go by mood and season, and occasion. There is a perfume for them all. I am still a lilac girl and by all accounts of polled tango partners, that still is a good choice. I also make my own potion of Clementines, mango, vanilla, and strawberry and pack it in vials to carry with me.  I wear cucumber oil that I combine with vanilla or musk or tea rose oil. I am a recent but total fan of Annick Goutal but I am not saying which ones (alright, I cave: Petite Cherie and Grand Amour –both heaven). 
I still adore Patou’s Caline and would trade my soul or at least my secret to better biscuits if someone could fine me at least one wee bottle (and not from Ebay – those Calines were all opened, used bottles, no thanks.
Did I mention my perfume snobbism? I believe the best are French or Italian (the Brits can be inventive, but staid, and the Americans oh-so-creative but perfume, like a old world baguette, takes history and a genetic sense of scent no one generation can emulate). But here is my not-so-dirty little secret. I had a brief affair with Oscar de la Renta’s Intrusion. It is lemony, floral, warm and well, there was no longevity or hope for a future, but, while it lasted, the scent was great. Every lass needs a fling. Intrusion (which I highly recommend) was mine.

Recently, I accepted the courtship of the New Scent and finally capitulated to is advances. You might say, it got under my skin. But the new love is indeed something special. It is soft, sweet, flowery but in an oriental way. It is warm and apricoty, sultry and soft spoken, understated femininity in each drop of its precious 1.25 ounce bottle. This particular scent makes me feel absolutely pretty – a perfume litmus test of the first order. It is a perfume that makes men stop in elevators and smile at me. It makes my son Ben linger when I say good night.

So, and just what is the new scent? Ah, that would be telling. Once you have found your new scent, you hush. It is your secret. Some things, we don’t share, like the secret to better pie dough, men, and perfume

March 30, 2010

Angel Perfume Births an Angelic Recipe Selection

(This feature originally was commissioned for, and appeared in, the foremost fragrance periodical from the UK. Subsequently, the feature was nominated for the 2011 Canadian Fragrance Feature of the Year, online media)

Ah iconic Angel Perfume - what a delight to wear - so delicious you want to drink it and men want to slurp your skin...or just about! Just consider the scent notes: Top Note: Bergamot, Mandarin Middle Note: Passion Fruit, Peach, Apricot Base Note: Patchouli, Vanilla, Chocolate, Caramel - These are the fragrance notes of Angel as per perfume descriptions on many a scent retailer site and what fragrance counter representatives will tell you. There is also, on some perfume blogs, further references to this fragrance for women contains a blend of vanilla, caramel, sandalwood, patchouli, blackcurrant, fresh citrus, melons, peaches and plums. What is agreed on, across the board, is that this is angelic perfume that you almost want to lick off whoever is wearing it or drink it straight from the bottle. To say it’s for the hedonist is no understatement – nor to suggest it takes it’s fragrance notes from home comforts and recipe books on classic desserts – is far off the mark. This is a fragrance for the food fanatic – and the one who eats dessert first.

When Thierry Mugler launched his famed Angel perfume in 1992 the love affair between this fragrance and its consumer devotees was like most great love affairs: instant. Call it love at first breath or leastways, love at first inhalation. Moreover, better than the average, ‘best’ love affair, the adoration was as long lasting as it was immediate. Conversely, among fragrance writers, the love affair was not quite instant. Sweet, candied perfumes have a way of not immediately garnering respect; creating fruity, sweet, ‘foodie’ perfume isn’t too esteemed and few perfumes manage to reach an exalted level when they go that route. But in time, with the leathery patchouli accents counterpointing the sweet froth within, Angel got the nod from the industry as well as the ladies who lunch. Not to mention, the aesthetic branding of the perfume (in blue glass star decanters) that are (how green is that and all before green was in…) refillable captured an enduring following. What’s not to love about a perfume that makes you smell like a candied siren and comes in a beautiful bottle that is less expensive because you can refill it?

Given the hype and loyalty Angel receives, it’s easy to explain how why almost two decades later, despite the plethora of perfumes on the market in an industry that is beyond burgeoning with new blooms year in, year out, Angel continues to dominate the ‘best selling’ perfume on countless perfume sites?

In his own words, Mugler is quoted on the Angel website, concerning his offspring, Angel: “This is a romance that is not all fluff.” Truth is, who could resist the sweet floral that somehow delivered candied notes in a fresh way?

Although the components of Angel are a closely guarded secret, Angel is renown for its gourmand-inspired sensibility, rife with essences of honey, chocolate and caramel. Blended with notes of vanilla, patchouli and sandalwood, Angel is definitely a romantic fragrance but one that takes itself seriously. In other words, it takes playful elements of welcome sweetness: chocolate, vanilla, caramel, berries, honey and citrusy-sweet bergamot which, like and fuses them into a bouquet of heady delights. As one Angel representative confided with me, ‘if you like food or are seduced by desserts and all things gourmet, this perfume is for you’. For a pastry chef who is also in love with fragrance, it isn’t then, a great leap to take Angel as a starting point and inspiration to create some ‘Angel-inspired’ recipes.

* * *

Four Angel Recipes

~ Chocolate Mandarin Angel Tea ~

~ Angel Honey Cake ~

~ Bergamot Angel Brownies with Earl Grey Ganache ~

~ Angel Crème Brûlée Blondies ~

* * *

Chocolate Mandarin Angel Tea

You cannot fathom how magical a trio of classic black teas such as English Breakfast, Assam and Orange Peko become when they’re coupled with some chocolate notes and a sweep of orange zest. This is dessert in a cup - an extravagant, outrageously, decadent cuppa tea. This is a great tea to bring in a canister or pretty cello bag and a coloured tie as a gift or for serving to guests with spice cake, butter cookies, or a delicate pastry.

  • Zest of half an orange, finely minced and left to dry one hour
  • 1/4 cup Assam tea leaves
  • 1 cup English Breakfast or Orange Pekoe tea leaves
  • 1/4 cup English Breakfast tea leaves
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground milk chocolate
  • 1/3 cup finely ground semi-sweet chocolate
  • 3/4 teaspoon orange oil or tangerine oil (Boyajian’s brand*)
  • 1 teaspoon pure orange extract (such as Nielsen Massey Vanilla Co.)
  • 1 teaspoon, optional Nielsen Massey Chocolate Extract
For orange oil, Google online for Boyajian for a retailer closest to you or go directly Prepare the orange zest and let dry out on a counter one hour.
In a large bowl, toss the tea leaves, chocolate, orange zest and extracts.
Store in a tea tin.

To brew, use 1 1/2 teaspoon per cup or 3 tablespoons per 5-6 cup pot of tea.

* * *

Angel Chocolate Velvet Honey Cake

Tender, chocolaty, and kissed with honey and the lightest hint of spice – this cake is queenly. Most honey cake recipes call for tea or coffee but coca-cola is my secret ingredient in those, and this new recipe. The fusion of mellow honey, pure cocoa, coca-cola, and a gentle wave of spice makes this sublime. This is a tall, moist, dark and wondrous cake. A dusting of cocoa or confectioners’ sugar is perfect or you can opt for a drizzle of melted bittersweet chocolate is the final touch.

  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla
  • 1 cup coca cola
  • ½ cup, optional, coarsely chopped semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, optional
  • Confectioners’ sugar, or cocoa, or drizzled melted semi-sweet chocolate, or Ganache
Microwave Ganache Glaze
  • 1/2 cup water or heavy cream
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped, semi-sweet chocolate (BEST quality you can find)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously spray a nine or ten inch tube or angel food cake pan a ten inch spring-form pan with cooking spray. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves.

In a food processor, add in the butter, oil, honey, white sugar, brown sugar and blend well about 30 seconds. Add in the eggs, vanilla, and coca cola and blend well another minute. Fold in the dry ingredients and blend about 2 minutes until smooth, stopping machine once or twice to insure that ingredients are all blended and not stuck at the bottom.

Fold in chocolate chips if using. Spoon or pour batter into prepared pan (s). Sprinkle with almonds. Place cake on baking sheet and bake until done, about 60-75 minutes until cake springs back when gently pressed with fingertips.(If baking in a spring form pan, bake the cake longer and slower or center will peak. It will also take about 20-30 minutes longer to bake).

Cool ten minutes before unmolding from pan.

While cake is baking, make the Ganache if opt to use that to glaze cake.

To make the Ganache, place the water or cream in a microwavable bowl and heat until bubbly, on high. Remove from the microwave and whisk in the chocolate and honey, whisking to blend until smooth and glossy. Refrigerate about 2-3 hours until it thickens but you can still spread it on the cake. If it is quite stiff, warm it slightly until you can drizzle it on the cake. You can also add 1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine to make it more pliable.

If not using Ganache, simply leave cake as is, or dust with confectioners' sugar, cocoa or drizzle on melted, semi-sweet chocolate.
Serves 12-16

* * *

Angel Brownies with Earl Grey Ganache

Dark, bakery-style brownies with a shiny, bittersweet glaze, redolent of Earl Grey tea. If you want these thick, use a 7 by 11 inch pan; if you prefer them flatter and chewier, make them in a 9 by 13 inch pan. This brownie recipe captures the chocolate bergamot notes of Angel in a wholly decadent dessert.

  • ¼ cup steaming water
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Angel Ganache
  • ¼ cup very strong brewed, Earl Grey Tea
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 ½ cups semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Finishing Touches
  • ½ cup white chocolate, melted
  • Earl Grey Tea Leaves
  • Sweet Heart Rose petals
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line an 8 by 11 inch or 9 by 13 inch pan with parchment paper, cut to fit, leaving a slight overhang at two ends to serving as lifting ends. Generously spray the pan (and parchment paper) with non-stick cooking spray and place it on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. In a saucepan, melt the chocolate with the butter in a double boiler or microwave. Cool 20 minutes. In a mixer bowl, stir the chocolate butter mixture with the sugar, eggs, flour, and salt. Stir well to blend batter. Spoon into prepared pan.

Bake until just set, about 30-40 minutes. Let brownies cool well before, using the parchment paper to assist, turn the brownies out onto parchment sheet on a work surface.

Meanwhile, for the Angel Ganache, prepare 1/3 cup very strongly brewed Earl Grey Tea. In a sauce pan, combine the tea, whipping cream and bring to a gentle boil. Fold in the chocolate, reduce the temperature and whisk to melt chocolate and mixture is smooth. Remove from the stove and place in a bowl. Chill 2-4 hours until almost solid. Then whisk in the butter. Spread on brownies.

Drizzle white chocolate over the dark icing, and dust on some Earl Grey Tea leaves and tiny rose petals. Refrigerate 30 minutes, then cut into squares to serve.
Makes 25-30 brownies 

* * *

Angel Crème Brûlée Blondies

Blond ambition in a bar. Crème brûlée syrup, along with a layer of cheesecake get swirled into this golden, pecan and butterscotch chip blondie. With its caramel vanilla notes, and raspberries thrown in, it hits an ‘angelic’ high.
Crème Brûlée Topping

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2-3 tablespoons water

  • 1/3 cup whipping cream

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Cream Cheese White Chocolate Layer 

  • 3 ounces white chocolate, melted

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened 

  • 1 egg 

  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Blondie Batter

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs 

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt 

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup butterscotch chips or semi-sweet chocolate chips 

  • ½- 1 cup frozen small raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 7 by 11 inch pan or a 9 by 13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put the baking pan on it. For the crème brûlée, in a heavy-bottomed, 1 ½ - 2 quart saucepan mix the sugar and water over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, 15-20 minutes, until it reaches a dark amber color. Throughout the cooking, brush the inner sides down with a pastry brush dipped in cold water (this prevents crystals from forming on the sides and going into the syrup). Remove from the stove and place the sauce pan in a sink. Taking great care, and standing away as much as possible, stir or add in the whipping cream and butter.

This will cool the mixture but it will also foam and bubble up quite significantly so take care. Once the bubbling subsides a bit, whisk the cream and butter thoroughly into the caramel. 

Meanwhile, combine all ingredients for Cream Cheese White Chocolate Layer and blend well, a few minutes, in the food processor. Set aside.

For the blondies, in a saucepan, over very gentle heat, melt the butter and brown sugar together and cook until the sugar dissolves somewhat (5-8 minutes). Let cool. In the same (not washed) food processor bowl, blend the cooled sugar/butter mixture and add egg, blending well. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt, nuts and butterscotch or chocolate chips. Gently fold in raspberries.

Spread batter evenly, using a wet knife or spatula. Smoosh on cream cheese and then smoosh/ripple/mush in (anyway you can) the crème brûlée topping.

Bake 22-27 minutes. Be careful not to overbake. Squares will seem set but might be slightly jiggly. Cool in refrigerator after they have cooled 30 minutes on counter. Cut in pan and serve chilled.
Makes 16-24 depending on size

Caution: Men Hate Incense

Men and Incense, Scent of a Protest

Men don't like incense. I bet you didn't know that. Actually, this is not necessarily true. There are men that do like incense. But as a rule, it seems men, or maybe it’s husbands, who don’t cotton to incense. It's like an irrational political stance – men don’t vote for incense as a matter of - how they've always voted: Democrat vs. Republican, Incense vs. No Incense (and no fountains, chimes, cats, or tofu). Frankly, I don’t even know why this is. It’s not about being um, not macho enough - that’s pretty old school- but show me a guy, a married guy, that likes incense, (not just permits it but likes it) and I will smoke a scone.

How do I know this? I was married for 22 years and although I didn't use incense in my married days, when I became unmarried I went hog wild on incense. Not patchouli and sandalwood which is lovely actually, but strawberry, coconut, cinnamon, apple blossom. Gorgeous, soothing scents. Sometimes I burn sage or lavender which is the obvious Go-To Incense but I find it a tad lemony, almost acidic so I tend to favor the fruit and vanilla incense options. Nothing you can equate with anything too cultural or off putting. Sort of like the spice route of the traders centuries ago, which makes sense - I'm a baker. But all in all, I gravitate to wonderful, harmonious, comforting scents no one could protest.

But at one point, I got so het about about incense I began giving it as gifts to all my women friends. I wanted to share my new world (singlehood and exotic new freedoms). My gal pals seemed happy at first and then? When I would replenish their incense, presuming in a few months’ time, they were out of incense, they seemed a little less then enthusiastic. Finally, one by one, each admitted their spouses ‘didn’t like incense’. Each one. Each different Tom, Dick and Harry. How. Is that even possible? I think it is because they just have this Husband Code that says a) men don’t do incense and b) even if they did, the fact that it is a foreign substance coming into their homes, courtesy of their wives’ friend makes them balk. It’s a guy thing. And how do I know this? Because I have two brothers, three sons, trained for years with umpteen French pastry chefs who were all men and dance with men at tango. I’ve known a lot of guys. I know that ‘scent’ falls into new age, gender bender stuff. I know- how silly: this is 2009. But we are dealing with boomer men who if they did incense was in 1970, listening to Suite Judy Blue Eyes and Eli's Coming.

Truth is, I count myself lucky that even though I have sons – three in fact who still live with me, I introduced them to incense early. They didn’t know to protest it. Being young, and accepting, and pro-mom (at that time), they were good natured about it.
Until recently.

One son, my middle son (the affable one) said: ‘We all have quirks. You have your candles and incense, for instance, which I can’t stand but I tolerate for your sake’.

Oh my.
All. This. Time. All this time he felt that way and never said. And I went around thinking, lucky me – my sons like incense, ergo there’s hope. It’s a whole new generation of men. I raised them right. See? There are masculine men who are cool about incense.

But apparently, they don’t. Not even said affable son. Who it turns out, was just being polite.

Now, anyone will tell you I anticipate remarrying one day. I know there will be compromises. I will have to share the Special K with Strawberries and not pick out all the dried strawberries just for me and I imagine there will be other adjustments. I was married once. I remember how it goes. There are deal breakers and there are shrugs and sighs. And despite how the marriage ended (i.e. it ended) I was reasonably good at it. But would the new marriage have me give up my incense? I try and conceive of a world with this (unmet) amazing guy who adores me but a place without a scent playlist of wafting green apple chamomile incense greeting me when day is done. Apricot incense when I watch Sense and Sensibility; vanilla incense when I really prefer to devour 10 Twix bars, and New Mown Hay incense when it's February and I am pining for Spring. However will I live without it? I suppose I could look for oak moss and pine incense - manly stuff, reminiscent of Irish Spring, Old Spice, and old footballs. I suppose I could burn it in the garage.

But what is it with men and incense? It's as innate as dogs chasing cats. I am convinced they dislike incense simply by rote, as a matter of some strange principal that no one remembers the rational reason for anymore. How I wish it weren't so for I love incense and I love men. Maybe when my sons have sons,those guys will get it. At least until they get to puberty and become men.....and then it's only a matter of time until one of them shrieks, "Something stinks! It's grandma's incense!'


Nea, Byzantian Magic from Jul et Mad, Paris

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