Candles, generally speaking, are a welcome addition to any room: They foster a calming ambience; the flickering little flame is fun to stare at; and they can lace the air around you with a subtle aroma that makes you want to breathe in deeply and go “ahhh.” Some candles, usually the more expensive ones, smell better than others (though I recently bought an agreeable “lavender and cedar wood” candle for $7 at a convenience store). Which candle scents someone finds appealing will naturally vary by person.
However, among the many genre of scents—floral, woody, herby, sweet and spicy, whatever “fresh linen” is—there is one that’s uniformly disgusting: candles that are designed to smell like a food.
These candles are conceptual abominations rendered even more foul in practice, and I, as a member of the candle-having community, am hereby submitting a motion to cast them out once and for all. To be clear, I’m not only talking about the gag candles that claim to smell like pizza or what have you, and which I think we can all agree are unappealing, but also candles that are meant to approximate the pleasant smell of foods like sticky buns, blueberry muffins, cherry pie, any fruit, birthday cake, gingerbread cookies, etc. These are so gross!
Lingering food smells are inherently unappealing. It doesn’t matter how sweet the fragrance, if you smell a food for an extended period of time, it’s no longer good. Here’s how baking should go: You make a cake and stick it in the oven. You smell the cake baking and say, “Man, that smells so good, I can’t wait to eat it!” You get to enjoy the cake. Then, the smell dissipates—maybe you even you crack a window to allow a fresh, non-cake smelling breeze to enter the space and usher the stale cake air away—and you go back to smelling neutral air. The delicious smell has done its job in enhancing your anticipation and enjoyment of the cake, and then it takes its leave.
A good food smell knows not to overstay its welcome. A cake-scented candle, then, is a perversion of this natural order. With a cake candle, your dwelling smells like cake, or, more likely, some poor, sickly-sweet chemical approximation of cake, for hours on end, and there is no actual cake to eat. Replace “cake” with any baked good and the point stands. You’re saddled with a clingy food smell but never get to enjoy the food.
“What about citrus candles?” you ask. They smell like soap. No food candles!