The Chef and I were driving away from the Market, windows open and music playing. I took in a deep sniff, then sighed. “My god, the inside of this car smells incredible,” I said.
He laughed his little devilish giggle. “Yeah. I farted.”
I slapped his arm at the stoplight, smiling.
The inside of that car was heaven. We had just been to World Merchants, my favorite spice store in the world. I’m lucky — it’s just a few steps away from the Market, only a fifteen-minute drive away from our home. Inside, glass jars filled with cardamom, Madras curry powder, and Saigon cinnamon. The Chef and I were there for quite awhile, buying spices for his restaurant, inhaling the smells of Turkish bay leaves, dukka from Syria, and five-spice mix from China. When he put the jar of cloves up to my nose, I closed my eyes and took it all in. Truly, I nearly fainted from the sweet, earthy smell.
That is how we started our morning (outside the house).
So we were driving, the smells of allspice mingling with cinnamon and flavoring the fennel. Everytime we reached another stoplight, he either asked me to bend down my head and smell another spice, or he kissed me. Most of the time, both.
At a certain point, we both laughed. We seemed to both realize how ridiculous this behavior would be to most people of the world. We smelled and compared and thought of recipes on the spot. Cinnamon ice cream with the spicy Saigon cinnamon, the one with the kick. Smoked duck breast braised in lapsang souchong tea. Curried carrot soup. Thank god we both love doing this. It’s a joy, a relief, a constant surprise to love someone who is so entirely alive to life, through food.
As we passed the park, the one with the trees aflame with color, flushed through with sunlight, I looked up at the leaves, the blue sky. And I had a sudden rush of understanding. This time last year, I would have been in school, grading more papers, spending all day inside, preparing hour-long lectures I didn’t really want to give. I would have been alone in it, waiting for the end of the day to do what I truly loved to do. And here I was instead, driving with a fully relaxed body, just after noon, the car filled with the alluring smells of food to come, and the love of my life beside me.
I have never been so happy in all my life.