What’s your favourite flavour dear reader? What’s your favourite smell? Is it the bright sourness of lemons? Is it the soothing sweetness of colourful lollipops? Is it the intense spice of chilli peppers? Do you love the aromatic smell of lavender? The earthy scent of truffle?  Mostly, do you know why? What is it in certain flavours and smells that speaks to our soul, that defines who we are?

Mine is smoke. The smell of smoke as it penetrates my nostrils, the woody taste of smoke as it fills my mouth when I taste a piece of thinly sliced smoked pork tenderloin. The feeling of smoke as it surrounds me, as it enters my body when I am sitting by the fire, staring at the red, grey, blue, black coals, as I put a piece of smoked mackerel in my mouth, its saltiness only to subside quickly and give its place to the king of all flavours.

I love smoke because it is aggressive. It is dominant. And it consumes and overpowers everything around it. Smoke is what remains long after the fire is gone. And it is powerful. Fierce.

You bite off a piece of barbecued ribs, the tender meat separating from the bone with almost no resistance, and all the complex sweetness of the spice rub and the carefully prepared sauce touches your tongue. But this only lasts for a moment. Then, no matter how elaborate and deep these flavours are, smokeyness takes over. It doesn’t ask; it doesn’t hesitate. You know it will come whether you want it or not. You almost long for it. Not that it really matters. As its fiery tasting notes touch your tongue, everything else subsides. The flavour travels up your nose and everything else disappears, succumbs to its power. Yes, smoke is all consuming. It reaches places within you that no other flavour or smell ever will. For everything else is ephemeral, weak. While smoke is strong. It remains. It endures.

There is also a darkness in smoke. A black, grey cloud which envelopes and covers all the colourful parts of your soul, leaving you feeling powerless, helpless. No matter how hard you try to escape, to be that sparkly person who absolutely adores mint chocolate chip ice cream or mango sherbet, to be the calm person who always goes for the comfort of cinnamon, the exciting person who adores spicy jalapenos, even the regretful one who goes for the bitterness of back coffee or Campari; no matter how hard you try, you just know. There really is no point in trying. It is hopeless. For it is the smokeyness that will inevitably take over; it is who you are after all. Deep down you wish you were something else, you vividly remember past repasts with sweetness, care and excitement, even some bitterness at times. But these are long gone dear reader, they now are a figment of your imagination, and if you really want to be honest with yourself, you like it that way. Maybe it serves some purpose. Maybe it’s a liminal state. Or maybe you’ve simply...changed. You crave smoke now, you crave its all consuming black grey cloud, you crave its darkness, almost as if you don’t want to, or can’t taste the other flavours. For you are broken and that dark cloud of smokeyness is the only thing that makes sense, the only flavour with which you feel comfortable.

I often wonder if people can feel my smokeyness. Can they smell it in me? Does it, like the scent of cigarettes, travel with me for long after I’ve put out mine in the ashtray. Can they taste it in me when they come closer? Does it, like the taste of Lagavulin remain in my mouth for hours? Can people feel my smokeyness? Mostly, I wonder if it will ever leave me. Will I be craving smoked salt for the rest of my life, all my future meals seasoned with its all consuming darkness?

Smoke is what remains long after the fire is gone. After everything is destroyed and people are gone. Smoke is powerful. Fierce.