cherry blossoms: 7 posts

The Perfect Scent of Spring and Cherry Blossoms

Be wary of perfumes called Cherry Blossom. They promise a whirlwind of pink petals and poetry, but they’ll deliver a wan fruity-floral scent that doesn’t come close to the real thing.  What do they smell like, these flowers, that despite falling off almost as soon as they open, have captured the imagination of poets and philosophers? To contemplate a cherry blossom is to reflect on beauty and mortality, the passing of time and the power of subtle things.

The scent of cherry flower is indeed subtle, but it’s not bland. Neither is it sweet or fruity of the commercial fragrance type. The scent is bitter and green. If you bury your face in the petals and let the yellow pollen settle on your cheeks, you notice hints of Amaretto, honey and green sap. It’s surprisingly assertive, with enough character to stand out next to the pungent aroma of blooming pears and the sugary sweetness of apple flowers. Every spring, I wish I could distill it all into a fragrance, and every spring I give up on this idea. As Japanese poets have rightly noted, the beauty of cherry blossom is in its evanescence.

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Salt and Flowers

A Japanese friend once served me a cup of sakurayu, a salted cherry blossom tea that she brought from Kyoto. The flowers unfurled slowly in the hot water, turning the liquid a shade of pale pink and infusing it with the aroma of almond and apricot. This springtime drink made me wonder what it is about the combination of salt and flowers that makes it so intriguing. The topic of salt and flowers is the subject of my FT column, Magic of Salt. I explore salty effects in perfumery and the way they can uplift floral notes.

Salt has its own mild scent and, depending on its processing and provenance, it ranges from bitter and iodinated to flinty and flowery. However, the magic of salt is its ability to volatilize the aromas of other ingredients. You can experiment by cutting a tomato in half and smelling it raw. Then sprinkle it liberally with salt, wait for a few minutes and have another inhale. Even if your tomato is an uninspiring greenhouse variety, once salted, it will have a more pronounced perfume. To continue reading further, please click here.

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Cherry Blossom Haiku

The sky shifts with the cherry branches above my head. I’m lying on the grass staring at the blossoms. This idyllic scene would be straight out of a Japanese silk painting were it not for the fact that I’m dressed for garden work and the reason I’m in a reclined position is because I’m exhausted after weeding the garden. But as the petals fall on my face, I forget about the back pain and think of my favorite haiku by Matsuo Basho, the 17th century Japanese poet.

How many, many things
They call to mind
These cherry-blossoms!

Haiku weaves vivid images, and cherry blossom themed poems have an element of contemplation and bittersweetness that is compelling. The sight of blossoms, so exquisite and so evanescent, is a reminder of the transience of things, and while it can be melancholy, it’s also reassuring. Everything passes–and then returns.

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Asya’s Idea of Paradise

The word paradise comes from the ancient Persian word pairidaēza, “an enclosed garden,” and for a Ukrainian, a cherry orchard is an idea of Eden. It has the same potent connotations as a white picketed fence house in the context of the American dream. It doesn’t mean that all Ukrainians dream of retreating to the village and tending to cherries—no more so than all Americans want to live in the suburbs and obsess over greens lawns—but the image has force beyond its mere components.

cherry-orchard1

In many folk songs, the cherry orchard is where friends meet, families gather for supper and beloved yearn for each other. It is a place of safety and beauty. It evokes all of the things that matter—family, love, friendship, bounty. It’s not a coincidence that one of the most popular works in Ukrainian literature is a short poem by the national bard Taras Shevchenko. Recite the opening lines to any Ukrainian—“A cherry orchard by the house. Above the cherries beetles hum”–and you will see his face light up and his mind travel to his own fantasy garden. “And nightingale their vigil keep,” he murmurs the poem’s romantic coda*.

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Postcard from Ukraine : Pysanky

Khristos Voskres! Христос воскрес! Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Happy Easter to all who celebrated over the weekend.

This year was the first time that I tried my hand at making pysanky, decorated eggs that are an essential element of the Ukrainian holiday. This tradition is much older than Christianity, attested by the fact that painted eggs are part of the Persian vernal equinox celebration, Nowrouz. Pysanky is one of the most distinctive Ukrainian arts, and every region has its own design and technique. The motifs can be religious–angels, Virgin Mary with a baby Jesus, a cross, or more commonly, flowers, leaves, birds nesting in tree branches and geometrical motifs. The design is first made with beeswax and then the egg is colored.
pysankycherry blossoms 2016-1

As you can see, I first colored my egg yellow and then added more wax on the parts I wished to remain yellow. After this was done, I colored the egg red.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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