Nostalgia Smells Like Strawberries

image“These strawberries smell like Nairobi,” he claimed. If you have ever been to Nairobi, you know that it definitely doesn’t smell like strawberries – but to him the fruity fragrance was linked with a memory. He had been born and raised in the bush in Kenya. And it was routine to drive 8 hours into the city every 2-3 months to resupply, physically and mentally. We would stay at a small guesthouse owned and operated by the Baptist Mission.

“Every time we were at Hampton House, we’d buy strawberries,” he explained.

And there it was. A sweet flashback to a different life – the same lifetime, but a world away.

It’s funny how a smell can transport you to a place 8,000 miles from today.

We had gone into the kitchen at his request. “I want something baked. What can we bake? I’m ready.”

Not wanting to shy away from a cooking lesson, I ruffled through my mental recipe files to think of something quick and tasty, using fresh ingredients we had on hand. Lemons, berries…lemon muffins with strawberries! Adapting this recipe from tastesbetterfromscratch would be simple. We could just substitute diced strawberries for the raspberries.

Like an experienced baker, he began to pull out the ingredients he knew we would need; sugar, milk, salt, eggs, strawberries, lemons, etc. Eggs revealed one short, but he quickly ran next door to borrow one and we began our lesson. I did none of the work and didn’t need to do too much advising. “I’ve watched you when you cook, and I’ve learned how to do it.”

We were rewarded with soft lemony glazed muffins, stuffed with chunks of sweet strawberries and memories. It was so worth it.

Sometimes I think that he doesn’t remember much about our life in Africa or I worry that he will forget too much of his 12 years living there. But here was a memory that was firmly planted; one that perhaps forever forward will be harvested whenever those bright red jewels appear.

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