Making Scents of Fall

Now in Season Fall 2011 Issue

Making Scents of Fall

By Terese Allen | Photo By Jim Klousia 0

Taste and smell are intricately related. When something smells good, it makes us hungry, and it adds to the pleasure of eating. Some aromas whet our appetites like no others; for example, the cloud-nine scent of baking bread, the floral bouquet of a perfectly ripe pear or just about anything cooked outdoors.

Smell, in fact, has much to do with our primeval infatuation for food cooked in the open, especially in autumn, I think. When the air is not weighted by humidity and heat, it becomes an aroma arrow. The perfume goes straight to your head. To see what I mean, try this: breathe in the bouquet of sweet red peppers roasting over a smoldering grill. Add the scent of autumn leaves crushed underfoot. Now toss dried rosemary branches or hickory nut shells onto the coals. Heady, yes?

The odors of the indoor fall kitchen are just as alluring. That’s because it’s baking, roasting and soup-making season, the time when slow-cooked smells permeate the house. Such aromas are both simple and complex, easy to identify and hard to define. Think yeast bread rising or wild rice simmering. Or take roasting chicken; you know it, but how do you describe it? Words like barn, earth, wealth and romance come to mind. (This is where a poet would come in handy.)

Autumn’s fragrance has a delicious wistfulness about it. Outdoors, we breathe in as much fresh air as possible because, all too soon, it will be cut off by storm windows and scarves pulled up over our noses. Indoors, the smells of fall cooking emit a sense of nostalgia, of something safe yet sensual, like roasted root vegetables or baked cookies.

Smell stirs all our hungers, not just the physical one. And that’s a wonderful thing, for as food writer Richard Sterling once wrote, “Those of us who hunger most, hunger best.”

Visit our Eat Seasonal page to find out what foods are in season right now, and pamper your nose with these wonderful fall recipes by Terese:

Yeast-Raised Rosemary Garlic Bread

Weekday Roast Chicken and Veggies

Pear Pecan Spice Cake with Caramel Drizzle

Terese Allen has written scores of books and articles about the foodways of Wisconsin, including the award-winning titles "The Flavor of Wisconsin" and "The Flavor of Wisconsin for Kids." She is co-founder and a longtime leader of the Culinary History Enthusiasts of Wisconsin (CHEW). If you want to get Terese going, just ask her the best way to fix an old-fashioned, how to hunt for morels, or why fish fries thrive in our state.

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