You’re walking down a street past an open window, and all of sudden, you’re in
your grandmother’s house, a pot of her red sauce bubbling on the stove and the
family gathered for Sunday dinner. You look around, startled—it’s Tuesday, your
grandma’s long gone, and you’re hundreds of miles from your childhood home. But
someone is stirring up memories, in the guise of marinara and fresh herbs.
Or you’re sitting in a conference room. Others file in, and for no reason at
all, you flash on your college boyfriend, a man you’ve barely thought of in
thirty years. Only then do you realize someone in the room is wearing his
cologne. Before your conscious brain even recognized the scent, and put it in
context, your memory took you back.
We’ve all had that experience. Turns out, our sense of smell is related to
memory more closely than any other sense. Researchers have identified a
physiologic reason for that connection. Smell is one of the oldest senses, and
it’s located in the limbic system, the same part of our brain where memory
resides. Our senses of touch, sight, and hearing are located in other regions,
making their connection to memory less instant—we might have to think, albeit
quickly, where we’ve seen a particular object or to identify a sound or a song.
Researchers also say that memories evoked by smell tend to be more vivid than
memories evoked by other senses, which may be why I often dream of campfires on
nights in late August when the wind shifts and carries the smell of distant
forest fires in through our bedroom window.
In writing my Spice Shop
mysteries, set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, I’ve thought a lot about
smells and memories. They often have seasonal connotations. Many people
associate cinnamon and nutmeg with autumn—because that’s when we eat pumpkin pie
and drink pumpkin spice lattes. Both spices feature prominently in holiday
baking. You’d never sprinkle thyme on eggnog, but a glass of lemon-thyme tequila
seems just right for a hot summer day, doesn’t it?
As a college freshman in Seattle, I was puzzled by the scent of fall. It smelled
of leaves changing, releasing their tannins and other chemicals, hints of salt
and algae and diesel in the air. It did not smell like fall in my hometown,
Billings, Montana. Not until I returned for my junior year did I realize that
what I was noticing was the smell that wasn’t there. Billings is home
to a sugar beet refinery, processing the harvest from early September well into
November. The odor is sharp, slightly acrid—not unpleasant, but not like
Seattle. And if I ever caught a whiff of it elsewhere, my mind would zip back to
those early years before I knew it.
Is there a specific memory you associate with a particular smell?
In Seattle’s Pike Place Market, Spice Shop owner Pepper Reece is
savoring her business success, but soon finds her plans disrupted by a killer in
the latest from the national bestselling author of Guilty as Cinnamon.
Pepper Reece’s to-do list is longer than the shopping list for a five-course
dinner, as she conjures up spice blends bursting with seasonal flavor, soothes
nervous brides fretting over the gift registry, and crosses her fingers for a
rave review from a sharp-tongued food critic. Add to the mix a welcome visit
from her mother, Lena, and she’s got the perfect recipe for a busy summer
garnished with a dash of fun.
While browsing in the artists’ stalls, Pepper and Lena drool over stunning
pottery made by a Market newcomer. But when Lena recognizes the potter, Bonnie
Clay, as an old friend who disappeared years ago, the afternoon turns sour. To
Pepper’s surprise, Bonnie seems intimately connected to her family’s past. After
Bonnie is murdered only days later, Pepper is determined to uncover the truth.
But as Pepper roots out long-buried secrets, will she be digging her own grave?
Mystery Cozy [Berkley Prime Crime, On Sale: October 4, 2016, Mass
Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780425271803 / eISBN: 9780698140554]
Leslie Budewitz blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the
Northwest in two cozy mystery series. KILLING THYME, her third Spice Shop
Mystery, set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, is due on October 4. DEATH AL
DENTE, first in the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, set in Jewel Bay, Montana,
won the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. The immediate past president of
Sisters in Crime, she lives and cooks in NW Montana.
Find her online at www.LeslieBudewitz.com and on
Facebook. More about KILLING THYME, including an excerpt here
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