by Joe Fiorito

The Inuit greet face to face, but they don't rub noses, exactly, and you shouldn't call it kissing. It is a form of greeting every bit as intimate as a kiss, but it goes deeper than that; it's a way for friends to take in each other's smell. It's how friends fill the empty places caused by absence.

Smell is fundamental to happiness. I know a man who travels with a piece of his wife's clothing sealed in a plastic bag. When the separation is too much to bear, he opens the bag and breathes.

Traces of this signature mark our sheets and pillows; this is what makes crawling into bed on a cold night such a comfort.

Smell is one of the many nameless things you miss when love goes wrong. That smell will linger, it will haunt you and exhaust you long after your lover has gone.

Think I'm exaggerating? Wake up early one Sunday and smell the person sleeping next to you. Do it. Lean over. The side of the neck will do, just below the ear. Take a deep breath. The knowledge of this scent is lodged in the deepest part of your brain.

Breathe deeply, if only to remind yourself of why you are where you are, doing what you're doing.

Now go into the kitchen. Throw two eggs into a bowl with a cup of milk and a cup of flour. Add a quarter teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of melted butter. Mix until smooth, but don't overdo it.

Pour the batter into buttered muffin tins, filling the cups no more than half-full. Put the tins in a cold oven. Turn the heat to 450 F. After fifteen minutes, turn the oven down to 350 F. Wait for fifteen minutes more.

This recipe comes from the Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham. It's an important book, with clear recipes and much new thinking. For example, prior to Marion, popovers were always started in a hot oven. This is a small thing, but one which changed my life.

While you're changing yours, make some coffee and squeeze a couple of oranges. Do what you want with a pear or a pineapple. Get a tray ready to take back to bed.

Now open the oven. It will make you smile. They don't call these things popovers for nothing. They look like little domes, golden brown and slightly crisp on the outside. The texture inside is as soft as your partner's neck. The smell is just as warm and every bit as earthy.

Take them out of the muffin tins and put them in a basket. They'll steam as you break them open. Eat them with a little butter and the best jam or honey in the cupboard. A soft camembert isn't out of place if you have it.

Breakfast together is the second or third most intimate thing you can share. If someone new is sleeping over and you want to make an impression, make these. If you're worried about what to talk about while you're eating, remember what Oscar Wilde said. Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.

If you haven't got a partner, make popovers anyway. It's easy enough to cut this recipe in half. It's good practise. It's its own reward. The butter melts into the jam and the sun pours onto your breakfast bed. And you have another way to fill the emptiness caused by absence.


From Comfort Me With Apples: Considering the Pleasures of the Table (Nuage Editions, 1994), a delectable collection of Joe Fiorito's vintage Hour food columns. Amazon that to your doorstep.

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