Just Put Some Vicks On It

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What is it about Vicks that makes us want to put it everywhere?

When scientist Rachel Herz decided to study the connection between smell and memory, she chose five products emblematic of childhood: Coppertone suntan lotion, Crayola crayons, Play-Doh, Johnson & Johnson baby powder and Vicks Vaporub.

She studies the science of what’s called the Proustian phenomenon. The French novelist Marcel Proust writes about dipping a madeleine cookie into a cup of linden tea and the aroma immediately bringing him back to a long-lost memory.

Producer Julia Longoria has always had that relationship with Vicks Vaporub — the scent transports her right back to childhood, to days in bed with the flu at her grandmother’s house in South Florida. Julia and her cousins all knew not to tell grandma when they were sick, or they’d risk being slathered with "Vickicito".

Julia never had a reason to wonder why grandma loved Vicks so much, but this week’s episode reveals grandma’s love for the product is deeper than Julia imagined. And while investigating grandma’s (and the world’s) Vicks obsession, Julia is pulled into her family’s past, back to Cuba, before the Revolution.

Music Playlist

  1. Snake Charmer

    Artist: The Jaguars
    Album: The Jaguars
  2. The Man Says - Instrumental

    Artist: Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics
  3. Manele

    Artist: Blue Dot Sessions
  4. Taco Taco

    Artist: The Jaguars
    Album: The Jaguars
  5. Stay With Sly

    Artist: Madrona Music
    Album: Madrona Music Volume 1
  6. Stingray - Dangerous Thought

    Artist: Blue Dot Sessions
    Album: Stingray
  7. Looking For A Better Thing (Instrumental)

    Artist: Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics
    Album: It's About Time - Instrumentals
  8. The Fix Is On (instrumental)

    Artist: Peter Mulvey
    Album: Audiosocket Instrumentals
  9. Pop Brasilia

    Artist: Podington Bear
  10. Holding Hands

    Artist: Podington Bear
  11. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

    Artist: Lana Palmer
    Album: White Sparrow Instrumentals