There is something about smells. They seem to possess a power that sights, and possibly even sounds, don’t. They can transport me instantly to a different time and place; conjure up feelings, scenes and situations vividly and sometimes unexpectedly.
Luckily there are few smells that do this in an unpleasant way – as dreams usually do, I find. Mostly smells bring good memories, or at worst nostalgic or curious ones. The smell of quinces not only represents for me childhood autumns in Suffolk, but is in itself intoxicating and addictive. I could put my nose to a quince and inhale over and over, all day long.
But I may never again find the intensity of fragrance that I once took for granted. The quince tree in our Suffolk garden was not, I suspect, just any old quince tree. I have never come across any other quinces, before or after its demise in last winter’s winds, which gave off such a strong smell as those from our tree. You could leave two or three out on the kitchen table and before long it would have taken over the whole room. I’m not sure the greater intensity of fragrance translated into greater intensity of flavour – although it is difficult to be certain, without any to compare side by side. I love the flavour too, but it is the smell that holds the greater power over me.
Perhaps I need to do some research into quince varieties before choosing a new tree to plant: there must be some whose fruit is more heavily perfumed than others. Until then, I will have to be grateful for other people’s roadside offerings, which make wonderful jam but otherwise are merely a shadow of the magical quinces I grew up with.