You’re in New Orleans. Close your eyes and take a slow, deep breath. Allow yourself to succumb to the desire to greedily inhale the intoxicating aromas over and over again. Take notice of how relaxed and completely content you feel while a wide-toothed grin creeps across your face.
Except if you are on Bourbon Street. I should have warned you not to take a whiff anywhere near that place. It’s one of the most famous streets in America and the entire thing truly smells like pee and vomit at nearly all hours of the day. To be honest, many other parts of the famed French Quarter really don’t smell that much better. But Bourbon Street smells downright disgusting. So have a look, but be sure to take in the scents I’m referring to well away from there.
There is one time, though, that I discovered Bourbon Street doesn’t stink, and that’s following a good rain. When it rains, it floods, and the unpleasant stench of bad decisions washes right off the French Quarter’s streets.
OK, now back to the goodness. The first scent that struck me while meandering through New Orleans was the food. In particular, the seafood. Not nasty, fishy seafood smell, but delicious crawfish and shrimp boil with Creole seasoning. The savory scent wafts through open windows and down winding alleys. A seafood dish that was new to me and I instantly fell for is grilled oysters with garlic butter and parmesan/pecorino cheese. I ate so many of these. They taste one million percent better than raw oysters. You know what they say: Once you go grill, no more raw swill. Just kidding, nobody says that. Ever. But the smoky grilled smell mixed with the garlic and tangy cheese really is divine and forever changes your oyster game.
Let’s get the obligatory beignet out of the way. Admittedly, eating beignets is not really my thing. They’re not horrible, just not my thing. But I do loooove the sweet, doughy smell of them cooking, especially when it combines with the scent of strong coffee. You can keep your beignets, just let me take a sniff first.
Hands down the smell that most left an indelible mark on my olfactory memory is the perfection of the star jasmine. This stuff grows EVERYWHERE and I absolutely CANNOT GET ENOUGH. It grows in gardens, clings to fences, wraps around monuments and twirls up power poles.
I kept closing my eyes and breathing deeply while walking around until I had an unfortunate tripping incident. After that, I would keep it safe by stopping to smell the jasmine. I will forever associate the magical, heady smell of star jasmine with New Orleans. Of all my moments in the historic city, I believe the bliss of strolling in the sunshine in the Garden District while being enveloped by the sweet, luscious whiff of jasmine will be the most unforgettable.