Friday, December 24, 2010

Tastes and Smells and Sounds of the Holidays

by Robert C. Roman

Hallo all. For those of you who don’t know me yet, I’m Decadent’s resident Mad Scientist, Cook and Bartender. As such, it makes perfect sense for me to take a step behind the turntables today.

You did see the ‘MAD’ part before scientist?

Anyhow, there’s a lot of magic in the air this time of year. Because of my Mad Scientist Code of Professional Ethics, I’ve no choice but to take it all apart and see how it works. Because that’s what madboys do. Look at it this way; once you know how it works, you can make it happen again, and Again, and AGAIN! Muah ha ha ha!

What was I talking about? Oh, yeah, Holiday Magic.

For good or for ill, holidays are an emotional time for everyone. Often those emotions are etched in sense memories we aren’t consciously aware of. For years we go through life reacting to smells and tastes and sounds without knowing why. Sometimes we even attribute those feelings to what’s happening at the time, whether the emotion fits the occasion or not.

The cinnamon and pepper smells of pfefferneuse cooking in the oven. The ginger and cinnamon and sweet gourd as the pie heats. The caramelizing sugar and cinnamon overlaying the apples in the other pie. The savory smell of the turkey frying in its own juices.

The salty, savory taste of the gravy smothering the plate. The smooth, milky taste of butter in the potatoes and carrots and corn. The sweet taste of cream coating the pies.

The sounds of Mannheim Steamroller and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and Wendy and Lisa and Grace Jones.

What? Let Joy and Innocence Prevail isn’t traditionally a holiday song, but I first heard it as part of a Christmas movie, and forever after it’s emotionally linked to Christmas. ‘Cause that’s how human sensory emotions work. So…

Next time you wonder if it’s really worth it to go to all the trouble to bake that pie, to dig out those Christmas albums, to find that old holiday show on Netflix, rest assured that it will pull back all the memories from when you were little and Christmas meant presents under the tree appearing as if by magic. If you’re currently the one putting them under the tree, that goes double! You’re the ones laying down those memories for future generations.

With Christmas presents under the tree in mind, I’ve got some Christmas presents to give away!

In the comments, tell me the first smell, taste or sound that makes you think of the holidays! If you remember, take some time and tell me why! One week from now, after all the wrapping paper has settled out of the air and the birthday parties are over, I’ll have Lucien (his birthday is on the 27th) pick one of your names out of the hat to receive... *drum roll*

A copy of A Christmas Evening Vigil (because there are no toys like SteamPunk toys), an iTunes gift certificate (for the holiday tunes!), a Harry and David gift certificate (for the holiday foods!), and a bag of Pfefferneuse (Mom sent me the recipe!).

I can’t wait to hear what you all have to say!

Oh, and since it’s traditional for the guy with the white hair and beard to say tonight, , Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Robert C. Roman


  1. Thanks for the song, Robert. Whenever I smell a pine scented candle, I'm reminded of the holidays. It puts me in a relaxed mood and the welcoming feel of family and love encircle my senses.

    Happy Holidays!

  2. A couple days before Christmas we'll make Candy Canes - raspberry pastries shaped like a candy cane - and the smell of warm buttery pastry and raspberry jam always signals the start of the holiday celebrations :-)

    smaccall @

  3. Ah, when Starbucks breaks out the peppermint mochas... Well, that's the adult memory. Kid memory involves cinnamon rolls... *drool...

  4. When I was young, my mother would bake for days, she would start early in the morning and cook all day. Since school of usually out by then, I would wake up to the smell of the pies in the oven. My Father loved Pecan Pies and she made several for us during Christmas. All that Karo syrup and pecans was heavenly..

    Happy Holidays everyone!!

    Happy early Birthday, Lucien:)

  5. Robert! You've got my tastebuds all a-flutter! That's what I get for reading before eating breakfast... Happy holidays, my friend! :)

  6. Thanks for that Robert.
    This year I wasn't going to do it. I mean who needs all the tissle--it's just a make work project. I've got enough obligations--I don't need another. And besides I was just recovering from being sick for a month and a half.
    But, at the last minute, I dug some decorations out and scattered them throughout our small house. Then I watched those old movies--Miracle on 34th Street, Holiday Inn, Scrooge. And a the magic happened.
    Happy Holidays

  7. Oh, that's easy to's the smell of glogg. It's a Swedish drink made with grain alcohol, whiskey, wine, dried fruit and spices. We have a tradition of spending a day before the holidays making it with family. The smell..indescribable. The taste, the same. hahaha! It's really good, but you can't drink a lot because it's so strong. Served hot and meant for sipping. If you can control yourself. If you have a cold, it does wonders.

    Hope you have a great holiday!

  8. Always, cloves remind me of Christmas. I remember, as a child, loving the tedious task of sticking an orange full of cloves!

    Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  9. The scent of cookies baking and hot apple cider! Mmm.... now I'm hungry ;) Good thing it's almost time for Christmas Eve dinner ;)

    Thanks for the sweet scents of remembrance!

    f dot chen at comcast dot net

  10. Great post! I'm very into scents--love the different varieties and the moods they create. The smell that says holiday to me is pumpkin spice. It's one of the ingredients my mom uses to do her annual baking which she had us kids helping with when we were 10 years old. At that age she started teaching us all sorts of baking and cooking techniques so we could take care of ourselves once we went to college.

    joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

  11. The smell that transports me to Christmas-ville is eggnog. Its distinctive and doesn't appear any time but December and my Dad used to love the stuff (I personally hate it) so he'd always stock up and sip eggnog all December long when we were kids.

  12. A childhood memory of the smell of cookies baking.

    kissinoak at frontier dot com

  13. my granny always burned cinnamon candles at this time of year so the smell of cinnamon always makes me think of christmas

  14. Great post. I enjoy all the smells but best of all isthe kitchen debby236 at att dot net

  15. I love the smells coming from the kitchen during the holidays...especially since hubby does all the cooking:)

  16. To me it's not the holidays until I smell the Christmas trees on the tree lots. To me that's always been the first sign of Christmas.

    seriousreader at live dot com

  17. The smell of hot, frying oil as the Chanukah latkes (Potato pancakes) are cooking....that's the aroma of my holiday! Sheila P 52 @ yahoo dot com

  18. The smell of sugar cookies baking reminds me of Christmas.


  19. when I see pumpkin pies I know Christmas in right around the corner, also when Christmas music starts up, will miss it.

  20. smell would have to be pine needles or sugar cookies, sound would have to be Christmas music or bells, taste would have to peppermint or sugar cookies.

    Happy Holidays!

    jessangil at gmail dot com

  21. Whoa. I sent this in, saw it posted, and then went on my usual holiday binge of last-minute gifts, relative visiting, and child indulging. This year, I added on to that almost a day of hibernating to shake the cold I've been fighting for the past two weeks.

    I came back, worried that I wouldn't have any comments, and... WHOA! Twenty of you! Thanks, guys! I feel all Christmasy again!

    @Kathleen - np, sharing is what the holidays are about!
    @Sarah - Buttery pastry. Mmm...
    @Maureen, @Jennifer - Cinnamon, Yum!
    @Judy - I love me some pecan pie. I used up all the Karo syrup in the house making the pfefferneuse though!
    @Leanne - YAY!
    @Kammie - Hey, I'm 1/4 Swedish, so that means I need 4 times as much glogg, right? What spices?
    @Zephyr - Ooh, I need to do that. That must smell wonderful!
    @fchen, @Estella, @Debbie, @Cindy - I'm makin' cookies now, smells wonderful
    @Jo - is that one of those they use in Pumpkin Pie?
    @Dina - I love me some pumpkin pie!
    @See - Eggnog rocks!
    @Linda, @Jessica - That's the best thing about real trees! (the next best being the lack of dust).
    @Shiela - I can never get potato pancakes to come out right. :( Still, they always smell good! :-)

    OK, now since I'm the World's Worst Procrastinator, and some of you might have been so busy experiencing the sensations of the season that you didn't have time to post, I'm going to keep taking entries until 6 pm on the 30th. At that point I'll have Lucien pick a name from the hat, and I'll announce the winner on the 31st!

    I'm going to go try potato pancakes yet again.

    p.s. Important notes about making pfefferneuse - the dough needs to be kneaded, not mixed, and anything with FIVE CUPS of sugar in the recipe is going to be STICKY.

  22. Oh my favorite smell of Christmas is a fresh cut pine tree. It is just heavenly! Reminds me of the magic of Christmas morning and the arrival of Santa!

  23. LOL. I don't plan to enter, but I wanted to drop by and show some love.

    For the holidays, I love the smell of good things baking, filling the house with scents of cinnamon and nutmeg, chocolate and vanilla.