The smell of pot roast in the hallway— fresh pink cotton candy and hay— bruised tomato vines and leaves— burnt marshmallows— BBQ smoke— berry bushes— these are smells that commonly trigger immediate emotion–filled memories— instant and overwhelming. This makes sense, as Natalie Angier describes, “the olfactory cortex is embedded within the brain’s limbic system and amygdala, where emotions are born and emotional memories stored. That’s why smells, feelings and memories become so easily and intimately entangled.”
Smell memory is long, resilient, powerful, and often described as a time-machine. A hot beach ball may bring you back to the sand dunes. Fresh-cut grass may bring the freedom of school-less summer. Dish soap may bring you back to your grandmother’s kitchen. Military wives commonly reserve some of their husbands’ used clothes while they are away, and if they don’t come back, request their clothes not be laundered before being sent home.
Julio and I chose to explore the senses usually left out of a normal dinner, such as a smell, to intensify the stories of the Headlands plant- and animal-life, geography, history and ghosts. Our first course was Fog: gin with Riesling, grapefruit and Laurel essence, carefully built to duplicate the aroma of the fog scented as it floods through the Eucalyptus trees of the Headlands coast. Our third course was Island: “deviled” seabird egg, based on the story of early Headlands settlers raiding seabird nests in the Farallon Islands. We built nests out of the grasses and hay collected from the Headlands coast to serve the eggs in, and the smell was sweet, tea-like and set a soft, distinct tone in advance of the arrival of the dish.
Sound was as important as smell, and this element was lead by our music partners, Shimomitsu, experimental music duo comprised of Shemoel Recalde and Joshua Roberts. Shimomitsu wrote and performed live music for each course- unique and inspired by the elements of the environment— ocean, cliffs, hills, island, fields, fog and ghosts.
Julio and I were honored to share some of these familiar and untold stories with the 90 guests of Flora & Fauna.
Thank you Headlands Center for the Arts, Jennifer Berry, Boon Design, Molly Butcher, Rocket Caleshu, Aurora Crispin, Alexandra Franco, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Justine Lai, Damon Little, Andria Lo, Sharon Maidenberg, Keith Mercovich, Nicholas Ohman, Shemoel Recalde, Joshua Roberts, Paolo Salvagione.
Special thanks to the Morales and McCabe families for their participation in the development dinner.