What Smells Like…

Image source: Photographer Katja Anton

Matt Golinski brings a new perspective to one of our oldest olfactory senses.

On a recent trip down the Bruce Highway from North Queensland I was playing the trivia games they have on big signs on the side of the road to ‘stay alert’. 

The idea is that there is a question on one sign to fire your brain and keep you alert and then the answer is on another sign about a kilometre further on.

I’ve done them a hundred times before but luckily I have such a bad memory that I don’t remember the answer by the next time I’m driving that road.

At one point I clearly wasn’t being alert, because I missed the question and only caught the answer, which was ‘The smell of rain’

Having nothing else to do on my long drive but listen to AM radio and wait for the next Q&A, I began pondering what the question may have been.

‘What makes us smile with relief late on a summers afternoon when we’ve sweated through a 40 degree day?’

‘What sends us running to the Hills Hoist to get the clothes off before a downpour?’ or ‘What lifts the spirits of a farmer who has been watching the sky for weeks in the hope that their crops will get a good drink before it’s too late.’

The smell of rain has become all too familiar over the past few summers – we’ve taken it for granted, even resented it as it signals more flooded roads, cancelled events that have been months in the planning, and decimates harvests that in turn have a direct flow on effect on the availability and price of the food we consume.

It can strike fear into the hearts of those who are still just cleaning up their houses and properties from the last unprecedented rain event, and fuel anxiety through its sheer unpredictability.

But if the weather experts are correct, we’d better get used to that smell over the next few months. We might just need to accept that there’s really not very much we can do to control it, and learn to embrace the rain’s sweet, minerally aroma.

Because while it may literally put a dampener on our alfresco dining plans, the alternative to a wet summer season is drought and bushfires. 

So let’s focus on the positives – water tanks and dams are full – including the big ones that supply water to our towns and farms. Days are substantially cooler when it’s pouring down. And we get to catch up on movies, books and magazines when we’re stuck inside.

And it drives home the need to establish local food networks, so we’re not so reliant on long distance transport to get hold of our supplies when roads are cut. And this place makes it easy.

Accessibility is no longer an excuse when it comes to supporting local. Markets, independent supermarkets, fruit shops and specialist providores such as the team at Good Harvest are more than happy to source these products as it gives them a point of difference from the grocery duopoly, and you can quickly work out who the serious restaurants and cafes are by doing a scan of their social media. What you can’t buy in person you can often buy quite easily online.

Chefs and restaurants all over the Sunshine Coast are responsible for championing producers and bringing awareness to their hard work, and these brands slowly trickle down into the mainstream market.

The Slow Food Noosa ‘Snail of Approval’ program is a stamp of authenticity for producers and food establishments and is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in discovering more about the provenance of food on the Sunshine Coast.

We know that hospitality and accommodation businesses on the coast will flourish over the summer period – rain, hail or shine (and there’ll most likely be all three), and whether we’re locals or visitors our ability to enjoy the next few months comes down to how we look at the world.

Sometimes you’ve just gotta wake up and smell the petrichor.

About the Author /

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Matt Golinski is a highly regarded chef with a passion for simple, produce-driven cuisine based on seasonal, fresh local ingredients. He is an active member of the Slow Food movement, a champion of artisan producers and a generous mentor to keen young chefs. He is the Food and Culinary Tourism Ambassador for the Gympie region; Ambassador and Advisory Executive Chef for Peppers Noosa; and a festival favourite.

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