Every time I pass by the town deli, I catch wafts of bacon sizzling, cooking, rendering. The smell intoxicates my nasal villi. I breathe in as deeply as I can, almost tasting the smell.
I consciously decided not to eat meat years ago. I never cared for the taste or texture of meat. It’s as simple as that. I have no ethical qualms against butchery or those who consume meat. I am well aware of the nutrients it provides, especially in the way of protein.
The last time I ate bacon was when my mother cooked it years ago in the Queens apartment we lived in that was owned by Trump, the president-elect.
The last time I ate the crumbly strip was when I was 5 or 6 years old and it was likely a Saturday morning. I remember the frozen rows of crinkly air-tight plastic-wrapped bacon being left out to thaw. I always recoiled at the taste of it. I still remember it’s briny, salty flavor and rough texture. I remember the contrast in the all-too-chewy middle and the crispy, crumbly ends. I remember the color- best described as the color of dried up blood or a scab that had not yet healed.
But that smell reminds me of simple times past. It’s like the smell of coffee for some people. They relish those roasted coffee beans, that dank, musky scent from a drip brew. But when it comes to taste, they describe coffee as sharp, chalky, and acidic.
That’s me and bacon. It made everything better as I was heading home from a forbidden walk. I felt full and lacked an appetite before my lunch.
The same goes for when I pass by bagel establishments, although I remember enjoying the taste of those Eastern European delicacies. The smell of the carb-loaded donut-shaped breakfast and lunch item, when toasted, leaves me in a trance. The flaky innards having absorbed the glistening butter creates so strong a smell that I can almost recall tasting it. I remember dismissing the plain bagels and preferring sesame over poppy. I salivated over the delectable spinach bagels from the longtime defunct Manhattan Bagels in Forest Hills.
On weekend indulgence days, I opted for deli ham slices, scallion cream cheese, or jam - strawberry, in between my bagel slices. I sometimes had the chocolate chip bagels out of kiddish desire, but I never really cared for the taste. A bagel wasn’t meant to be cake.
These smells evoke a sense of the familiar. I don’t feel deprived. If anything, they conjure up an otherwise lacking appetite.
Nearby where I live, there is also a popcorn factory. I never cared for the taste of popcorn. Popcorn was always too dry, oftentimes found residence in the crevices of my teeth, and sometimes seemed to get caught in my throat. I particularly never cared for the kernels that didn’t pop, sometimes unexpectedly making their way to the back of my throat, forcing a gag and scratchy swallow. These kernels sometimes threatened to chip a molar. Popcorn never seemed to satisfy my tastebuds either. Even the Christmas variety tins that had caramel and cheddar cheese flavored popcorn did nothing to placate my left-for-wanting palate. And yet I purposely would pass by the popcorn place if I was allowed to go on a walk, because the smell revs up my appetite.
Looking in the mirror, I am starting to see a familiarity. Cheeks are plumped up a little. I tried on a winter hat and didn’t see a deflated face underneath a cable knit rimmed fabric. It has been a long time since I could say that. My healthy face is so unfamiliar to me in the short term, and yet it resonates with the familiarity of a bagel shop.