I think it was Steve of Rancho Gordo (awesome project, awesome vibes, awesome product) who described the smell of pozole on the stove as the filling of your kitchen with a gigantic, wet tortilla. Earthiness permeates every nook and cranny.
It’s an accurate description as far as it goes, which certainly isn’t far enough to capture what smells to me like history, the communal preparation of massive amounts of food for times of celebration, for joyous occasions. In other words, for times of delight, though the work, shared as it was (and is), was (and is) backbreaking. I’ll nod to some of the traditional methods of preparing Mexican cuisine as I grind spices in a molcajete, but I can’t imagine forsaking my blender to work with a metate, breaking down chile skins, rendering seeds into powders, and so on, and this only the first of several laborious steps in so many of the celebratory dishes. Celebration as communal, through communal cooking—the time involved is too long for a sustained solo effort.
The smell of puzzle reminds me of long-ago trips to New Mexico to visit my uncle, whose annual Christmas gifts of chile powder along with the occasional bag of dried chiles invariably put us all on high alert the moment the pungent cardboard box came into the house. It was these annual gift that eventually sparked my interest in learning more about traditional Mexican cuisine and, through that, Mexican culture. Granting that the history I smell as the pozole bubbles slowly on the stove is certainly diluted by books and distanced by who I am and who I am not, it is nevertheless for me a powerful and enticing aroma.