To some, the most wonderful time of year has arrived. It’s PSL season when regular coffee turns into Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I do love pumpkin pie and I’m a huge fan of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and ginger, but not in my coffee. Still, I love the homey smell of a hot PSL.
It’s said that smells evoke memories and that the reason some people can’t get enough of their PSLs is because the spices evoke memories of nostalgic Thanksgiving dinners. For me, there are several specific smells of my childhood that bring me home, all from my grandmother’s bakery.
Whenever we visited, she would send us home with a huge pink box of assorted buttery, crunchy cookies adorned with colored candy sprinkles, maraschino cherries and tiny chocolate chips. Oh, and a smaller box of cinnamon rolls that were doughy logs of goodness rolled in cinnamon and sugar!
Fifty-plus years later and 3,000 miles away, if I even think about the bakery, I can still smell the vanilla of the cookies. I also have smell memories of my children’s childhoods, namely scented Strawberry Shortcake figures. I remember the Blueberry Muffin one in particular because the smell was so “blueberrily” overpowering that it gave me indigestion. However, when I tried to throw the stinky thing away, the look of terror and grief on my then-preschooler’s face broke my heart.
I don’t remember what finally happened to it, but I imagine there’s a therapist somewhere who has heard all about it. I’m not usually this philosophical about how things smell, but for the past nearly two weeks, thanks to COVID, I haven’t been able to smell or taste anything.
As Joni Mitchell famously sang, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
God could’ve just made gruel for us to eat, but he didn’t. He made cinnamon and nutmeg and vanilla beans so our food could be enhanced for our enjoyment and pleasure. Jesus said man doesn’t live by bread alone, but eating bread is definitely a worship experience when it’s hot and yeasty and smeared with salty or sweet creamy butter.
Thank you, Jesus!
In his book, “Letters to Malcolm,” C.S. Lewis wrote about the pleasures derived from forest moss and sunlight, bird song and morning air and the comfort of soft slippers as “shafts of God’s glory as it strikes our sensibility.” He said we shouldn’t guard against enjoying our senses, but to allow our minds to “run back up the sunbeam to the sun” and to see every pleasure as a “channel of adoration.”
Lewis is saying that we worship God through our senses. Not only has he given us our senses to enjoy his creation, but our enjoyment gives him enjoyment. Our pleasure is his pleasure.
That’s worship, giving back to God what he has given us.
It’s been the weirdest thing to not smell or taste my food. I told a friend I had eaten a burger for lunch that I knew was delicious, but only from memory. And it’s the memory that fuels my anticipation for the future. The Bible throughout talks about feasting and points toward a future feast at the end of this age when all God’s people will dine together as one big family.
As Isaiah describes it: “On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine — the best of meats….” (Isaiah 25:6).
Until then, we practice — and we worship. We smell and savor the bread and the PSL, let the chocolate melt on our tongues and the juice from the burgers drip down our arms.
We “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) today, tomorrow and forever.