At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Mood-memories are brought back by smells.

Sometimes a whisp will bring back a long-buried remembrance of times-past with startling clarity. For pipe-smokers this is especially true.

Samuel Gawith's 1792 flake, with it's old-fashioned aromatic component (tonquin oil) revives the memory of a marble hotel lobby somewhere in Switzerland (1970 or 1971). The light slanted in from the windows, but did not reach the chairs and round tables along the opposite side. It is the smell of someone else's pipe - I did not smoke yet then.
This memory is cross-associated with Vladimir Nabokov's book 'King, Queen, Knave'.

Erinmore Flake (a fruity reek of pineapple?) smells of spring days in Valkenswaard, 1975. A park with many trees near the Kleine Ven, and an irregular field with very green green grass and wet wet leaves.
It is a potent and delightfull memory - such a pity that the product itself is virtually unsmokable (I have never finished an entire tin). You can probably figure out why JP Dunleavy's 'The Onion Eaters' in its turn reminds me of that sweetness.

Troost Slices (malty, boozy, caramel) recalls the visit by a dusty old classmate of my parents, and the warm autumn afternoon that we went to Westerhoven for Trappist Beer. The leaves were thick on the village square, the sun shone, and dancing motes irridesced in gaps where brightness fell. I countered the fog of his tobacco with Balkan Sobranie (a product whose flavours were achieved honestly - soft Virginia, resinous Yenidje, and tarry Latakia).
But it is only the fragrance of Troost that works - actually smoking it merely reminds me of a spartan and temporary school-building along the Eindhovensche Canal, and cups of perfectly horrid hot coffee.

[Definitely a winter memory. Why else would I have drunk that slop?]

Sail, Amphora, and several other tobaccos sadly remind me of little more than dreary local grocery stores in Holland, and ferocious tongue-bite; times of mediocrity. These are tastes and smells that do not light up the mind. It boggles me that people still smoke these products.
Degustibus est disputandem.

On the other hand, Theodorus Niemeyer produced some tinned heather-honey blend that, though I would not smoke it again, I would dearly like to open up once more. Sunlight, dust-motes, warmth. The clean-smell of the hallway tiles after a good scrubbing. Morning on the market-square. And the coolness in the courtyard behind the building, still in shade. 1973. Rereading some of Kipling, much of Simenon, and both Ada and Lolita by Nabokov refresh this memory-echo, as do also the nictitating grasses in 'Speak, Memory'.

[But the latter half of Ada, with its depressive decadence, will additionally bring thoughts of Scandinavian flakes. Which in turn leads to much nineteen-fifties science-fiction, and the Larousse Gastronomique.]

Segueing, I now mention a tobacco which I tried recently:

Cornell & Diehl's 'Opening Night'.
Described on the tin as "A delicious blend of the finest Red and Bright Virginias pressed to perfection and sliced into flakes".

A simple enough product, but I've enjoyed it all weekend. There's something about the fragrance that reminds me of my father, when I was two years old, and we still lived in Southern California. He still smelled like that briefly after we had moved to the Netherlands (1962), but that lovely whiff then recurred more and more rarely - the last time I nosed it was in Naarden, in 1964.
Memory association also brings up tea and cinnamon toast, and how a living room in Bussum looked, as well as traces of the texture of certain wooden surfaces, a decorated porcelain plate (I cannot remember the pattern), and the feel of warm butter on my fingers. I think that also may have been when I first noticed a silk lamp-shade glow between orange and saffron or canary yellow - a very intense and laden colour.

[I also associate it marginally with marmalade; perhaps the buttery toast I just mentioned is free-associating, but the porcelain plate suggests otherwise. ]

Further: Drafting triangles on my father's desk, either an engineer's scale or an architect's scale (they still made them out of boxwood in those days), and a proportional divider. Smells of erasers, pencils, ink. In Southern Califonia, and in the Netherlands - I remember, because of the light.

Tonight I will smoke some more of it.


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  • At 1:50 PM, Blogger e-kvetcher said…

    Hey there mr proust, put down that madeleine...

    I just noticed that the link to the (now defunct yet throughly awesome) Maven Yavin blog is listed as Maven Yayin. A very funny misspelling, though I am guessing unintentional?

  • At 2:06 PM, Blogger The back of the hill said…

    Indeed unintentional - I really did read an expertise in wine in the name of that blog.

    Why I did so, at the moment, escapes me. Maybe I assumed a Rashi-like mentality.

    But let it stand - it is both cryptic and evocative, ve ha mevn yevn.

  • At 9:36 AM, Blogger e-kvetcher said…

    Speaking of Proust and madeleines,

    Here is an article you may enjoy, given your culinary proclivities.


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