Fragrant Connections


Peaches, white flesh, blush magenta skin, soft fruit, piled high each week, you can smell them in the air mingled with the sliced Charentais melons. I’m deep in the heart of the North American continent in Kansas, but the smell of that peach in the local store transported me back to my early childhood in Eastern France.

My French grandmother’s local market, ten minutes walk from her front door, we’d go twice a week. She’d wheel a whicker basket, I’d carry one in the crook of my arm. We’d say hello to the regulars, the cheese merchant with large rounds of Compté and oozing wheels of triple crème brie. The gardener with frisée lettuces a foot wide with curly pale yellow green leaves. The bee keeper, brother of an elderly neighbor with his jars of honey & honeycomb, and the peaches… the peaches… they were so juicy you couldn’t eat one with any finesse. Perfect.

The smell of marigolds, they used to line her front garden path. The fragrance of tall blue pink tea roses, she had them planted amongst large leafed hostas bordering her neighbors fence. The smell of crusty warm baguettes that we’d buy from the baker each morning as he made his rounds in his Citröen H Van, popping the side up & open to form a covered counter for his waiting customers. The smell of clean air following the afternoon thunder storms in the summer.

I can ‘see’ my grandmother’s hands, the blindness of her eyes meaning that they were her sight, soft of touch and feel. I can ‘see’ the wrinkly skin of her face, weather worn from life’s storms. Just the smell of a peach and I remember the connection to her, to that place, to those memories. I am stopped in my tracks by that smell, nudged to pause and soak in that memory, treasure the memory. What a gift, the smell of a peach.

Lydia Mallison-JonesComment