Maple Syrup Mystery Smell Not Maple Syrup

by Tig Tillinghast

Not long after we pointed out to hapless New Yorkers the true nature of their “maple syrup smell mystery,” the New York Times weighed in with not one, but two reporters summing up events. The upshot, as any Vermonter could tell you, was that the mystery smell wasn’t maple syrup at all. It was the key spice in Indian curry, fenugreek.

[Mayor Bloomberg doing his best Alexander Hamilton (pictured above him)]

[Hamilton in 1788: “Here, sir, the people govern.”]

[Bloomberg in 2009: “It’s just one of the many aromas we’re going to have to live with.”]

While there may be a ton of New Yorkers up here in Vermont – especially on Saturdays – there aren’t enough Vermonters to go around in New York City, thus the mystery went on for years in the City that Never Sleeps (but Often Smells).

In the municipal spirit of overdoing absolutely everything, the Times reported that the city put together a “crack maple-syrup team” that remained on the case for years. This “crack” team used the city’s complaint line to track reports of the smell and correlate them to weather and wind conditions. These “crack” operatives figured out that, with trade winds moving west-to-east, that the smell came from one or more of the innumerable factories in New Jersey. I suppose there were alternatives; It might have come from the ocean. Or space.

One hopes that the crack operatives are – after some well deserved rest and relaxation – tasked with an equally important mission going forward; like determining where all the water goes when the tide goes out down on South Street.

Postscript: I spent last weekend in a ski town in northern Vermont, where our inn keeper told us that we were one of the few actual Vermont couples they see, everyone generally coming from New York. We had an expensive dinner, and I ordered a maple pudding for dessert that tasted a lot like fenugreek and only vaguely like maple syrup. Heck, if Vermonters are treating New Yorkers that way, it’s no wonder the poor souls can’t tell the difference.