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The Best Smell in the World

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The nose knows, from the Mouth of the River

I’m sure you’ve heard this question countless times. That’s when everyone looks around the room and finally all eyes settle on Uncle Bill and you can see a smirk start to come over his face as his eyes start to glaze over slightly. 

Uncle Bill, like most outdoorsmen, or men in general as far as that goes, somehow feels exhilarated whenever he can pas gas in a large volume of noise that sounds a lot like a foghorn on a steam ship or a long whistle from a freight train. Better yet if they can let one sneak by in a crowded room causing everyone to look at their neighbor with suspicion and blame. Uncle Bill likes this one the best if it’s a room full of women, children and dogs. Like Pat McManus’s dog Strange who ust’a have a green fog following him around the dining room on days the preacher would come to dinner, embarrassing the whole family. 

As you’re probably aware, smell is one of our strongest senses and will stay with you the longest. Like this morning, I was standing in the kitchen looking out at a small herd of Elk browsing through the yard when suddenly I caught the drift of something in the air, a smell that had long been forgotten and yet one I had been familiar with in my past. As I stood there trying to remember where that smell had originated, it finally came to me. Good God, it’s been forever since I had smelled that. I turned and looked at our cook stove, and in a skillet was two pieces of bacon.

Now everyone can smell bacon cooking and that tells us that breakfast is on the way and in some cases your mouth starts to water.

But this was not just any bacon, this was bacon with mildew on it. You know, that green mold that appears around the edge of bacon when it has been kept a little too long in the fridge. That’s the rancid part you smell frying. Now, this won’t kill you (but don’t take my word on it and sue me if it does) but it gives your bacon a peculiar smell. 

As a small boy I would stand behind my grandmother’s old wood cook stove and get dry on cold mornings while she was cooking breakfast. The smell came to me from a slab of bacon she had scraped the mold off of and then cut several big, thick slices for the skillet, but there would be enough mold left to smell when it was cooking and it would cook off as the bacon became done. 

My grandmother showed me how to scrape it off with the side of her big butcher knife. It was back in those days when old bachelors would be found dead from food poisoning, by eating something that had gone bad because there was no refrigeration and they were too dumb to throw it out. 

Mold on pork was quite common back in the day when you bought bacon by the slab and sliced it yourself or sugar-cured it and hung it in the meat house; at any rate you just scraped off the mold and cooked and ate it. 

In Korea we would get hams that came over on the return trip of the Mayflower and they would be covered in mold. Our old mess sergeant would just wash them off in vinegar, rub brown sugar on them and bake. 

One other smell is that of Morton’s sugar cure salt; it will make any man’s mouth water and we use it to smoke Salmon, Steelhead or Kokanee, as a brim. 

I had to smile; as our little dog Scooter caught the smell of mold frying, she looked at me, dropped her tail, and left the room.

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Author info

Boots Reynolds Boots Reynolds The "internationally-renowned cowboy artist" Boots Reynolds has moved his comedic interpretation of life into the writing field with his regular column in the River Journal - From the Mouth of the River.

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From the Mouth of the River, bacon

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