Hard though it may be to believe, there are certain smells from the UK that I miss more than I can begin to tell you. The smell of the trees shortly after it has rained in the sleepy South-West London outpost that I used to call home, for instance. Or the unmistakable odour when you walk past a curry house, as the kormas, bhunas and dupiazas being slowly cooked inside. And having moaned about it for many years, there’s a born-romantic part of me that even misses the sickly sweet smell of hops being malted at the many breweries I lived around during my time in the capital.
But all of a sudden, I find myself with a new olfactory desire. My nose has a new mistress, a higher love that can know no bounds. So wondrous is the odour that I have to limit my exposure to it to once a week at most, for fear that greater contact may lead to me being forced to leave home in a reckless pursuit of its beauty.
Admittedly, the fact that spending too much time enjoying the aroma (and baked goods) of Mazzola’s Bakery will lead to me looking like the back of a bus may also be a contributing factor to my reluctance to go there all that often. But dietary concerns aside, there can be no greater smell on earth than Mazzola’s.
A tiny shop, a block or so away from our apartment, Mazzola’s has some of the best bread and pastries I’ve ever tasted. Their garlic infused loaf is so good that when I returned yesterday from a shopping mission to find The Special One out, I proceeded to eat two thirds of it without pausing for breath. What can I say, I was saving her from herself, OK?
But the taste is almost a secondary consideration to the smell. As soon as you open the door, you’re hit with a blast of scent babylon. First you get a waft of the French vanilla coffee brewing gently behind the counter. Then it’s the cinnamon-y goodness of the various twists and rolls that sit in the display case. And finally it’s the plethora of different breads, all freshly baked and sitting on the shelf studded with olives, onions, sesame seeds, cheese or, yes, garlic, awaiting a customer to pluck them from their temporary home to fulfil their greater purpose.
It’s sensory overload at its most pervasive. The women serving behind the counter are forced by law to serve you within ninety seconds of you walking in through the door, for fear that you might be overcome by the sheer joyousness of it all. But for those ninety seconds, you just know that everything’s going to be alright. Surely the greatest odour ever smelled.
That said, I’m off to Manchester on Friday night, which means a trip to Lou Macari’s Fish & Chip Shop for the statutory serving of pie, chips and gravy. Maybe deep fat fryers and vats of lumpy gravy can’t quite compete with Mazzola’s aromatic heaven, but for a few minutes on Saturday, it’ll definitely run it a close second.