In a too small house with too many people, pets, and constant moisture there are many aromas that disappear into the fabric of normal. It wasn’t until I was 12 did I realize that cigarette smell permeated everything I owned. When I returned home after moving away I was greeted with the sharp cloying scent of the cats that I never noticed while I was a full time resident. Somewhere in that period of maturing I began to understand that the stale alcohol smell was not present in every house.
But, there was one smell that stands out and brings me back whenever I encounter it. The smell of a truce in the constant battle with my father. It’s a smell that signaled that the weapons were withdrawn and it was safe to venture into the kitchen without fear of ambush. It was a smell that set me apart from my siblings and myself, for I was the only one drawn to it.
My father would bring the jar out and the top would make a sharp pop as the seal was broken releasing the vinegary smell. We would reach in and pick the slippery fleshy lumps out with our bare fingers and pop them into our mouths, sucking the flesh from the bones. Pickled Pigs Feet.
I can’t even imagine buying a jar and eating them now. It is hard to imagine the time when I would have been able to face putting the bits of whittled flesh and knuckles and bones and bristles into my mouth. But when I catch a hint of that succulent aroma my jaw muscles tighten and the saliva flows freely. It’s been over 40 years since I actually was around the real thing but the smell is reproduced in every tube of silicone caulking I have ever used. The exact same smell and my response is autonomic.