George and I like a good long soak in a bathtub at the end of the day after dinner. Sometimes we like to fancy up our baths with candles and essential oils. Essential oils, if you don't know, are these very concentrated oils that emit strong aromas. They cost between $3 and $7 for a bottle, a tiny amount that somehow lasts for eons. Putting a few drops of essential oil in our bathwater adds another pleasant dimension to the bath experience. In Berkeley we alternated between grapefruit scents for refreshment and lavender scents for relaxation. In Durham we bought lilac and jasmine. However, the store allowed us to test-smell all the oils first, and we came across some unusual scents I thought I should mention: cucumber-melon, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, and spicy apple. These are all food smells. When we got a whiff of those, we were revolted, but why?
There's a concept in sound studies called schizophonia, the disconnect between a sound and its source. R. Murray Schafer, the composer-philosopher who invented the term, considered schizophonia an essentially negative experience. He thought it important for people to be connected aurally to the soundscapes of their own homes. Just think: there was no such thing as background music until recording technology was developed, and musical performance in older times was a very important social and artistic phenomenon.
I don't want to go into a whole discussion of our aural experience, but when I smelled those food smells I thought of schizophonia. When we use lilac essential oil, it smells like there are flowers in my bathroom, which is nice. With food smells, it smells like there's food in the bathroom, which is, frankly, disgusting. The smell of food affects people physically; they salivate and their appetite rises. How gross for these food scents to direct your appetite toward such an inappropriate source as bathwater. You subconsciously consider eating your bathwater and it is instantly nauseating.
In short, when you buy smells for your home, remember that those smells imply that the sources of those smells are in your home; make sure the scents are appealing for the rooms they affect. And if you want to make your house smell like apple in an appealing way, mull some cider and leave the door to the kitchen open. That way you won't experience the vertiginous effects of schizoscent.
What happens next - I remember last Channuka well. My friend Sharon Kitchens asked me to submit a few paragraphs about the holiday for her blog, based out of Maine, to give re...