Foodie Sunday: “The Return of the Birds... My constant love affair with Food, Cimbalom and a fabulous giveaway!
The first time that I smelled Cimbalom , that glorious Jasmine soaked perfume created by the incomparably darling Roxana Villa, I was still in my beloved California, surrounded by packing boxes, filled with bittersweet confusion because our son was moving home and although I was very happy at the thought of having him in Cleveland again, I’d loved the space we’d shared as family while he was going to school out west. It was a time when we had him to ourselves, when we could be a family together in a gorgeous tranquil space and I’d come to depend on it for my own bit of zen.
I had exquisite small gardens there, containers filled with beautiful herbs that I cooked with, plentiful pots of fresh basil, strawberries and sage that always greeted me upon my arrival and a jasmine plant that was so fragrant that I can still smell it now as I type this. I loved to cook in my little kitchen there and because the farmers markets are so plentiful all year round our table was always filled with the freshest vegetables prepared as simply as possible. The cheeses were the stuff that dreams are made of ; fresh burrata drizzled with the local olive oil, nestled on a soft bed of my homegrown Genovese basil and garnished with heirloom tomatoes that were as fork tender as butter.
I made so many good friends out west, Roxana and her darling husband Greg among them and I was feeling sad because I didn’t know when I would return. It was October and I knew just by the way that my horses coats were filling out at home that it was going to be a long cold winter. If you’ve ever spent anytime in a Cleveland winter you know that while we have culture and plenty of it, we do lack sunshine. We have root vegetables galore, but the tomatoes taste like cardboard until summer and there is no spring corn! It’s only towards the end of March when you can begin to find shoots of wild things…..a bit of watercress here , a shoot of a wild leek or two poking it’s head through the leftover crusty bits of icy snow and dirt.
So sadly, Cimbalom became quickly intertwined with the leaving of that home because Cimbalom IS the scent of Southern California and it’s rampantly wild abundance of orange blossoms, patchouli, gingery spice and sun. The sultry sweetness it contains was for months a reminder that my address in the West is presently a storage unit where all of our belongings are living and patiently awaiting our return. Sadly I put the little vial and pot in my perfume cupboard because I couldn’t bear the feelings that it provoked every time I smelled it. Buttery burrata and slices of juicy, gorgeously perfumed Cavaillon melon wrapped with locally made prosciutto became just a cherished memory! I still dream at least once a week that Jim and I are sitting at the top of the La Jolla Cove eating meals of fresh mussels and California spiny lobsters roasted in butter, eaten with crusty French bread and washed down with a chilled and lemony local Viognier.
But reality has a way of settling in when you want it least and for many of us here in the Northeast the winter of 2011 has been the stuff of legends, with snow piling up by the foot, no sun and bitter temperatures that were icy to the marrow. One day when I couldn’t stand it anymore I grabbed the little pot of Cimbalom solid perfume that Roxana had given me and opened it. If you’ve never worn her solid perfumes they are all buttery sweetness, filled with beeswax and the botanicals that she lovingly crafts herself. Dipping my fingers into that little pot of perfume I remembered the first time that I met the beautiful Greenwitch of the California canyons who coaxes the honey from the bees and the nectar from all the flowers and herbs that grow in her lovely gardens.
Although we’d become fast friends through email and many wonderful phone conversations we’d never met face to face. One day about a year and a half ago Jim and I made the gorgeous drive up the coast to Los Angeles. We wound round the beautiful canyon roads until we finally came to a most magical little place, a bright and peaceful home filled with gardens and surrounded by the coastal oak trees that Roxana loves.
We got out of the car and in that instant my experience of what perfume could be changed forever. The meal that I ate that day began with the sharing of beautiful goblets filled with branch water and perfumed with a true jasmine hydrosol that she offered with the gift of a wish for a beautiful day. I had never smelled nor drunk anything as delightful as this before. It was the true, clear essence of the enchanting jasmine flower and it was at once instantly relaxing, transformative and refreshing. She and her delightful husband Greg then served us homemade cumin scented, buttery chicken empanadas and delicious almond macarons that had been lovingly crafted by Roxana’s daughter Eve. I spent the afternoon in the best company, enjoying a home that IS the essence of what the art of perfume has the potential to be. It is that very energy that infuses Roxana’s Illuminated Perfumes with a spirit and energy that is alchemy in its truest and most personal form.
So Cimbalom and I have begun a torrid springtime love affair and my silly sadness is gone, replaced by the knowledge that my Ohio gardens will soon be planted and my California eagerly awaits our return. I am grateful to have the best of both worlds and as I type, there are stacks of seed catalogs piled up by my side. When I look outside I can finally see my vegetable garden where the leftover leeks have survived the winter and the vibrant shoots of my fraise de Bois are shaking themselves out happily and threatening to take over the whole garden bed! The anise hyssop that I planted last year to seduce the honeybees and provide me with pots of deliciously relaxing tea is beginning stir and so is the asparagus!
The very essence of this scent lies in it’s sweet breath of fresh air, of the sun warmed earth as it begins to slowly break free of the cold, sending up green shoots that bear in their souls the promise of a fruitful harvest. I have sprinkled each corner of my garden with a few precious drops, my own spell, a wish for an abundant spring and for the safe return of the bees. It is the breath of California that lives on in my heart and is teaching me to create a bit of heaven on earth wherever I am. Dinner tonight? Garlicky Mussels and Viognier. I may be stubborn but I can be taught!
I have a little springtime present for one of you…a precious vial of Cimbalom liquid and a delightful little pot of the golden solid. If you want it, all you have to do is tell me what you are planting in your gardens this spring and I’ll enter you in the drawing!
You can purchase Cimbalom at Illuminated Perfume
Photograph of Cimbalom by Roxana Villa. The picture with the Jasmine is my California garden and the one with the bee skep is my Cleveland garden.