It is too easy to drift through a day thinking about other places and times, barely seeing and hearing the immediate world. Smells, though, I can never ignore. They root me in the present moment. Today, starting a pie, I cut two sticks of butter into cubes. When I picked them up to add them to the flour and sugar, the cubes left my hands shiny and butter-scented. I rinsed off the grease, but the smell of butter stayed with me as I mixed together the tart dough. The recipe called for whipping cream, so I pried the carton's mouth open. Even before the silken liquid poured into the light and air of the kitchen, its perfume drifted up to mingle with the scents of butter and flour. Subtle smells, but they drew me deep into their realm. I thought of nothing but pie, pie, pie.
The dough mixed and rolled out, the peaches and rhubarb chopped, we arranged everything in the tin. The fragile dough had to be treated gently, but the fruit didn't suffer from being jostled. Golden chunks of peach tumbled into the pie shell. They glowed with nectar. Sections of rhubarb, polished by juice and sugar, tossed themselves among the peach cubes like rubies. The other circle of dough settled quietly over this mound of treasure, and we pinched the pie closed.
Then the pie squatted in the oven for an hour, sending out the aroma of cream and peaches and butter and sugar, in irresistible clouds of scent. The smell of a baking pie is not subtle. It filled the kitchen, and my mind. Nothing else mattered. I would have been content to spend that entire hour staring into the oven, drunk on that golden smell.
Hours later, I've tasted the pie, eaten it. I can feel it still in my belly. It is a comforting presence. The memory of its smell, though, tantalizes rather than comforts. I will be haunted all night by the ghost of the scent of pie.