Journalist and author Inês Cardoso talks about the fragrances of memory.
Places, like memories, are all encapsulated by an aroma. There’s nothing quicker than a sudden scent to remind us of our favourite locations and people. We love places for their unique, infinite smells, which change with the different moments and seasons.
When they overflow, streams are also bursting with mint and pennyroyal. Spring is heralded by traces of cistus, then confirmed by splashes of rosemary in fields of lilac, spreading a sweet perfume that attracts butterflies and bees. With the beginning of June comes the aromas of traditional festivals, rosemary and shrines of vibrant yellow with which only trained hands continue to make crowns. Autumn brings grape harvests and must in transition, a mixture of promising aromas for mealtimes.
A few days ago, while talking about longing, a child asked me a difficult question, one of those with the intention and wisdom that only the clarity of the very young can formulate. What does your longing smell of? I hesitated briefly, bound to the touching memory of bread baking in a wood-burning oven, lovingly made by my grandmothers. But then I answered with surety. My longing smells of lavender: it’s from my origins.
Not that the rurality and deep interior of my country is the only thing that continues to shape me. It’s impossible to escape Lisbon’s infinite light, the colours of the higgledy-piggledy houses in Ribeira do Porto, the immense heritage that stands proudly in the middle of the Tagus, like Almourol castle, or Minho gems like Viana do Castelo and Ponte de Lima. Portugal is always history and culture, salt and sun, tradition and future, gastronomy and hospitality. Having so much in areas that take little more than an hour or two to cover is the greatest gift a place can offer.
My country, which attracts people from all over the world and boasts so many ways of being, also has the secret of being a slowly acquired taste. If I always return to my roots, to the tranquillity of my fields dotted with rosemary, daisies and rockrose flowers, it’s because they provide me with a unique pause in time. With everything time gives us, instead of us trying to cheat it.
by Inês Cardoso
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