I just got back from a month in Australia. What do I miss most, besides my best mates and Aussie humor? The nature and the smells. They're often linked, actually. Walking around the Barossa Valley (South Australia), strong wafts of peppermint (eucalyptus trees) backed with black pepper and lemon (also from the trees and native scrub) swirl around me. Then there's the ubiquitous rosemary and sweet lavender that grow so well that some use them for hedgerows. The air often has a dusty, clay-like scent, possibly from that iron-rich, sunbaked red soil mixed with a deep, meaty undertones that I want to believe is Vegemite...but I really have no idea where it comes from.
For anyone who's into nature, you've got to get to Australia. We all know that it's the only place that you can see 'roos and emus, but there are a multitude of marsupials that are only found there in all shapes and sizes. And the birds! A wide variety of brillantly-colored parrots are de riguer, though they make a hell of a racket as they screech and squawk their excitement to each other. And besides the venomous snake and spider populations, there are some of the most fascinating insects who call Australia home, blending into their native environment so beautifully that you really can't see them unless you focus long and hard.
But back to smells...I did get my serious Vegemite fix on this visit, which is a flavor and a smell that I adore. But my favorite--to bring this completely spontaneous, irrelevant blog back around to cheese--is to toast wholegrain bread, spread it with butter once it's cooled so the butter stays on top of the bread's surface, top that with either cave-aged Gruyere or Comte and finish it off with thick slices of ripe tomato. And that would be "toe-MAH-toe," for the record.