Tuesday, January 20, 2009

American Smellscapes: Southeast Texas

In Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman sang of the varied splendors of the American smellscape. Not for him the “conceits of the poets” from other lands, nor “perfume of foreign court or indoor library.”
But an odor I’d bring as from forests of pine in Maine, or breath
     of an Illinois prairie,
With open airs of Virginia or Georgia or Tennessee, or from Texas
     uplands, or Florida’s glades . . .
Regional smellscapes—for better or worse—are part of our heritage. They ground us and give us a sense of place. I think we should pay more attention to them.

Sarah Moore, the science and environment reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise, tracks down the sulphurous smells that characterize Southeast Texas. Best guess: reduced sulfur compounds that arise from the refineries, petrochemical plants and paper mills in the region. On the bright side: an older resident confirms by nose that industry emissions are noticeably less than they used to be.

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

Have you seen http://www.nioibu.com/
a Japanese "Smell Club" web site that is mapping smells around the world? Click on a place on the map (160 so far) and it tells you what you can smell there. All the smells are interesting and some sound wonderful. As listed in an AP new story:
*steam coming out of a rice cooker
*scent of verbena near a monastery (Paris)
*incense, grass, dirt and wild dogs (Ayuthaya, Thailand)
Others, I'd just as soon miss:
*used socks in the summer
*cats with halitosis (Kamakura, Eastern Japan)
* a toasty odor of cow dung (Fujisawa City, southwest of Tokyo)

So far, the site is only in Japanese, with no English translation. Drat.