Posted by Swellengram

Fragrance, Flavour, Fusion, Fun

  • Posted 11 months ago
  • Food and WIne

“We can’t be learning anything because we are having way too much fun” said a student to me once (to be fair, I was a Drama teacher, where fun is kind of easy to do).

I put on my serious teacher face, and came up with an explanation which was proven true at the amazing experience at Grace+Merci on Woman’s Day this year.

“Teaching certain subjects, e.g. Maths / Languages means the teachers have to take a body of knowledge out of their heads – and put it into your heads. Education, however, comes from the Latin verb educere meaning to draw or lead out…… finding out what you already know – even if you don’t know you know it!”

Key to this is participation, interaction, experimentation and, occasionally, moving out of comfort zones.

And this is what Bev Missing, entrepreneur, restaurateur and perfumer, enabled groups of women to do on Women’s Day 2023. With her experience, passion, knowledge and expertise, she gently drew out from us our sensitivities – of taste and smell – and we all had so much fun that we didn’t realise how much we were learning!

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Bev is a well-respected and admired figure in Swellendam. She has a remarkable talent for turning her ideas into successful ventures. She was the founder of Rain, an international brand of natural products. She runs a popular restaurant and shop in Swellendam, and has revitalized a local market that attracts both residents and visitors.

She told us about her passion for creating fragrances and her visits to Namibia, where she built a personal and business relationship with the Himba women. These women harvest resin from the Omumbiri tree, a kind of myrrh that grows in the dry savanna and produces a sweet, spicy, and warm scent. This resin is a source of perfume that is ethical and sustainable.

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Then breast cancer and the ensuing chemotherapy robbed Bev of her sense of smell, putting a stop to her research. But nothing holds this woman back, and as she regained her health, her sense of smell and her zest for life she turned back to her original love. Her latest project, a perfumery, will open in November and promises to be yet another hit.

So this wonderful and unique event was not just a bonding exercise for woman on Woman’s Day – but also a way to encourage us to use our senses to distinguish and appreciate the sensual world of fragrance and flavour.

We started by identifying four of the key taste profiles – sweet, salt, sour and bitter. It was at this very early stage that my comfort zone was breached – something looked suspiciously like tomato juice to me. And I had believed for years that I didn’t like it, so I hadn’t tasted it for years. Bev had shown us how our taste receptors develop over time and something that we had disliked as children becomes a whole different experience, and so it proved.

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Despite Bev assuring us at the beginning of the event that it was NOT a competition, my friend at the table has a seriously competitive streak, and when I balked at the idea of tasting tomato juice she gave me the eye and basically told me to pretend it was a Bloody Mary and ‘suck it up buttercup’…….so I did. And it was delicious – first part of ‘educere’ done and dusted. Less successful was my attempt to distinguish between the flavour profiles – the sweet was easy, but I struggled with separating sour and bitter.

We moved on to a utterly delicious home baked scone, accompanied by four different butters which we were asked to identify. Hopefully Bev will be doing many more of these events, so I am not going to give any spoilers, but suffice it to say that each one was yummy, I was able to correctly identify three of them. and would never had dreamed that butters could be flavoured so delicately yet distinctly.

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We usually expect a certain taste based on how something looks and feels – so we tried some fruit jellies that had no relation between their colour and flavour, and we had to guess what they were. I managed to get all of them right, much to the delight of my competitive friend.

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We faced a huge challenge as we tried to classify 12 different fragrances by sniffing and inhaling them. Bev had informed us that there are about a trillion possible smells in the world, but humans can only recognise 10,000 of them.

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2 x Photos above: Margaux Tait

Most of our guesses seemed to feature “Hospital” and I don’t know about recognising 10 000 – I was very proud of my 6!

Smell and memory are closely related because of the way our brain processes both of them. Smell is one of the most powerful senses that can trigger vivid and emotional memories, sometimes from long ago.

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We were treated to a box of nostalgia – scents which took us back to our childhood. This was when I discovered I had led a life of deprivation being brought up in England – I have never even heard of Chappies! Smell and memory are fascinating aspects of our cognition and perception. They can help us connect with our past, enrich our present, and shape our future.

There were other incredible treats and experiments – the smiling staff handled this potentially complicated event with a smooth professionalism. There were feedback forms provided and for the life of me I could not imagine how anybody present could give less than overwhelming support for this experience. It was truly incredible. I learned so much, and had so much fun!

Swellendam Tourism

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