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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

70

The Nose Knows, For Now...

Close your eyes and taste a little vanilla and chocolate ice cream. "If you can't taste the difference, you may have a problem," he says. Or hold a pad soaked in rubbing alcohol just beyond your chin. If you can smell it, your sense of smell is probably fine.

According to The Smell & Taste Treatment & Research Foundation, half of us will eventually lose some of our ability to discern scents, which might be a good thing depending on who/what you live with. Don't freak! There are ways to train your nose out of this fate. One exercise where you thoughtfully sniff little jars of household scents multiple times a day has the added benefit of helping you feel like a cool scientist. (They don't say anything about employing a blindfold, but surely it wouldn't hurt?) Suggested smelly things include "clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, celery and carrots," but what else?



70 Comments / Post A Comment

MilesofMountains

Can I now claim my huge collection of perfume samples as "medicinal"?

SquirrelObstacleCourses

@MilesofMountains Sephora ftw!

Jane Marie

@MilesofMountains i think so as long as you can identify the actual scents within them, like the notes and stuff. SORRY FOR TAKING THIS QUESTION SO SERIOUSLY. :)

allendaniel

this is me in real life and im happy with it XD@a

iceberg

apple cider vinegar?

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

Or that thing where you get a cold and then can't taste or smell for a while? Wondering if it will ever come back, etc. Kind of terrifying! But then, you can also just eat rice and beans and not care, because nothing else would taste any better, so there's a small upside I guess.

carolinaclay

never looked so wonderful!@y

fondue with cheddar

Why do they always say you can't taste things when you hold your nose? It's such bullshit.

OhMyGoshYouGuys

@fondue with cheddar I've hear that if you plug your nose and eat a cinnamon Jelly Belly, you can't taste it. You need to smell the cinnamon to taste it. I want someone to try this. Or maybe since the cinnamon is probably a chemical concoction, maybe you just think you're tasting it?

SuperGogo

@fondue with cheddar I lost my sense of smell back in my early teens (crap sinuses/allergies are to blame, I think). When someone learns this about me, the first thing they ask--without fail--is "can you taste?" I have trained myself not to snap "YES! JEEZ! GOD!" right away, even though that's always my first impulse.

I understand their confusion. It's true that I have a harder time with subtle tastes like herbs and mild spices. And I don't bother with tea unless it's mint or strong spice flavor, because otherwise it tastes like hot water. But I definitely have a (fairly discerning IMO) sense of taste...or else I would've offed myself by now. I mean, can you imagine a world without any taste at all?? Horrifying.

@OhMyGoshYouGuys I can taste cinnamon. I adore cinnamon.

fondue with cheddar

@OhMyGoshYouGuys I guess what you have to do is have someone feed you Jelly Bellys of different flavors and ask you to identify them. Maybe it would be hard to tell the difference between the cinnamon chemical sensation and other strong ones, like the very tart flavors? And do they have mint ones?

@SuperGogo Having trouble telling the difference between subtle tastes makes sense. And I have a good sense of smell and taste, and I think a lot of teas taste like hot water unless I add a sweetener, which seems to bring out the flavor similar to the way salt does.

My grandfather lost his sense of taste because of medication he was on, and he completely lost interest in food. He's since gotten over it but it was a huge hurdle.

NeverOddOrEven

@fondue with cheddar
It's always worked to a degree for me. I'd bet that it dulls more nuanced flavors but wouldn't be able to remove the basic reaction to sweet/salty/sour/bitter/umami stuff.

fondue with cheddar

@NeverOddOrEven I still don't really understand what umami is.

NeverOddOrEven

@fondue with cheddar
Savory, basically.

fondue with cheddar

@NeverOddOrEven I'm sort of embarrassed to not know what it means. Believe it or not, I didn't realize until quite recently that "savory" meant something specific. I always thought it meant something you savor, so basically, "really yummy". So all I really know is that savory/umami is something other than the classic four. So...what are some flavors you would classify absolutely as savory? I've heard people say MSG, but I have no idea what MSG tastes like.

NeverOddOrEven

@fondue with cheddar
I'd personally thought of it rooted mostly in meaty flavors, or something like barbecue sauce. Garlic even.
But according to wikipedia it's all about specific amino acids and tomatoes have a ton of them. They used "brothy" as a descriptor as well.

OhMyGoshYouGuys

@fondue with cheddar I'm loving your definition of savory. When I think of savory, I think smoky, grilled things. So meats are savory. And strong cheeses. And mushrooms. And herbs like thyme and rosemary.

NeverOddOrEven

@fondue with cheddar
And don't be embarrassed; I only learned of "umami" as a concept a couple years ago. I understood savory, but now I'm questioning how or why; your interpretation is perfectly logical.
Contextual learning - how the fuck does that work?

fondue with cheddar

@NeverOddOrEven Contextual learning, right? I'm glad I'm not alone. I feel like a person who spent their whole life underground and therefore cannot understand the concept of "sky". We should learn this stuff in toddlerhood, because they're so good at magically understanding things without being "taught".

@OhMyGoshYouGuys Okay, I thought maybe it was stuff like that, but the mention of tomatoes confuses the hell out of me because I don't see how they have anything in common with the rest. Savory appears to be my favorite category of flavor, but only the carnivorous ones, because I generally don't like the taste of plants. I'm not sure what rosemary tastes like because it's one of those "poky" herbs that I don't like to use. I have a lot of Things!

NeverOddOrEven

@fondue with cheddar
The wiki is a good read; it would seem it's rather complex and hard to describe, but they made a few good goes at it.

fondue with cheddar

@NeverOddOrEven Cool, I'd read the opening before but never delved into the whole thing. I guess it probably gets more clear as the page goes on. Thanks!

Pyxis

@fondue with cheddar Has anyone ever done that trick where you hold an onion under your nose, then bite an apple? It really does make it taste like an onion. Which IMO is not a good thing. Don't try it.

fondue with cheddar

@Pyxis Fortunately, I'm allergic to apples so I've never tried it. ;)

Kim@twitter

@SuperGogo I've never really had much of a sense of smell other than when I was pregnant. My mom doesn't either, but mine seems to be worse. I get the whole, "wow it must suck to not really be able to taste things then" whenever I bring it up. Ugh. If that was the case, I'd be skinny. Chocolate and cheese just taste so good. I honestly didn't really ever think much about it until a couple of media study classes that talked heavily about food experiences.
My selective sense of smell does, however, make pretty much all perfume just smell gross to me.

MsLady

When my sister and I were little, our grandma would play a game with us where we would be blindfolded and she would have us smell various spices and herbs and stuff, and we would have to guess what it was. So...she was ahead of her time in knowing how to exercise one's sense of smell? Or she was just creative in thinking of ways to keep two little girls busy after we got tired of "dress-up" and "tea party"?

NeverOddOrEven

@MsGray
My mom said she would do this to my sister and I as babies, because we'd only experience as much of the world as she brought to us.
Our relationship has since become much more complicated, but this is a prime example of her awesome.
<3 you ma.

maybe partying will help

Ack! What would I do without Proustian olfactory flashbacks?

Emby

@maybe partying will help I guess you'd have to make do with the newfactory ones.

Lucienne

@maybe partying will help "Yeah? That's cause I'm wearing Proustian Rush by Chanel. It's - it's reduced. I got a vat of it."

par_parenthese

@maybe partying will help This week's new goal: use the phrase "Proustian olfactory flashbacks" in an ordinary conversation.

lucy snowe

@maybe partying will help I had a classmate in grad school who had anosmia. I remember her showing up at the shop one day, thrilled because she'd had a spontaneous memory. She said that almost never happened for her.

maybe partying will help

@par_parenthese

I think I stole it from Anne Lamott, so. :B

@lucy snowe

D:

That seriously is just nightmarish to me. I adore catching a scent and then spontaneous memory-ing.

lucy snowe

@maybe partying will help Me too. I think I'd feel lost.

leonstj

I had a neighbor once in my early 20s who could smell NOTHING. Like, she was born without a sense of smell.

Hey boyfriend would complain to us whenever she cooked - she liked taking turns and sharing in the work, which she appreciated, but her sense of 'taste' - lacking the smells that make up most of it - was just the five basic tastes and texture. So, she would dump massive amounts of, like, white vinegar on like, baked chicken.

SuperGogo

@leon s I have no sense of smell...and can expound on the delicate luxiousness of the rosemary-flavored crust I had from Great Lake Pizza last month. I guess it's possible that other non-smellers have really dulled sense of taste too, but I don't.

Jane Marie

@leon s oh god.

par_parenthese

@leon s I worked with a guy like that -- born without a sense of smell. There were certain foods he could cook by habit, but as far as improvising? No way.

He was great to have around, man. He'd happily take out smelly breakroom garbage.

hahahaha, ja.

@leon s: I also knew someone who had no sense of smell, and he asked us once to describe what different wines taste like using other senses. We came up with things like "a drippy cellar," "a chewy old boot," and "fuzzy." In retrospect, we might be terrible at picking wines.

TARDIStime

@leon s Yeah... I kind of have to watch it with Mr TARDIStime and his cooking.
If he puts something on the stove to simmer and leaves the kitchen, I get anxious because there have been times where he's forgotten there's anything on the stove and the food burns. I've always gotten in there to turn everything off before the apartment goes up in flames, but it's kind of nervous-making when I know he'll be cooking alone, without me around to smell things.
I also worry about him eating food that's been in the fridge too long (food poisoning - not great), because he can't smell if it's off or not.

TARDIStime

@TARDIStime At the same time I have to walk the tightrope of not being overbearing and mothering him in the kitchen - he's a grown up and I can't be asking him all the time about checking his food to make sure it isn't burning.

whizz_dumb

Despite all the cocaine and cigarettes, my sense of smell is really good. At times, it's too good. That stanks, no thanks!

jagosaurus

I would love for my sense of smell to dial it back about 35% or thereabouts, just so I can pass through life without dry-heaving at smells other people are able to ignore.

At the very least, I wish the nose bone wasn't connected to the gag reflex bone.

whizz_dumb

@jagosaurus That's what I'm saying, you really hit it on the nose there.

jagosaurus

@whizz_dumb Hahahaha. Also, I died at "That stanks, no thanks!"

leonstj

How do ya'll rank your sense in order of like, if you had to give them up?

I have spent perhaps FAR too much time on this one. But I think, from most to least willing to lose:

Sight (this is extremely controversial)
Taste
Smell
Touch
Hearing

It's definitely not the list of like, "what if you went back in time and never had them", because it's probably way easier (by which I mean, still really hard) to live life deaf than blind. And it terrifies me, because hearing is the one I'm most likely to actually lose (Thanks, concerts, construction work, and powerful headphones!) but I am one of those people who can't picture living without constant music.

How 'bout you? (this is one of my favorite games)

whizz_dumb

@leon s I definitely am least willing to lose hearing, not only because it's important for my career and music is a necessity, but I've read that people who once heard and then go deaf feel more "lost" in the world than if they were blind. We take for granted how much we are constantly processing our auditory surroundings.

OhMarie

@leon s It depends on how far you're taking touch! Is it just like texture differentiation or all sensation? Could you actually have fun with sex ever again? If you got a splinter in your foot would it get all gross and infected before you realized it?

If this is all true, touch would be the worst by far.

TheLetterL

@leon s I'll play. My ranking, from most willing to least willing to lose is:

Taste
Smell
Sight
Hearing
Touch

@OhMarie Exactly!

leonstj

@OhMarie - The rules I usually use are kind of based on what I have heard about paralysis. So basically, you can't feel any touching at all. So yes on the foot injury.

Sex...I think this is where it would become really different for men and women, on the 'touch' thing (and a huge amount of men still put touch last, honestly). I've heard that, while it varies case to case depending on the type of injury, men with no feeling below the waist can still achieve a sort of physical release that makes sexual contact still fulfilling, though different than before their injuries.

Which is basically a cop-out on my part, because - and I'm sure this is weird, but hey, that's why we use fake names on the internet - I really can't even imagine having to choose between physical intimacy and music. Like, it's not even a debate - I just don't have an answer beyond a coin flip.

TheLetterL

@leon s See, I wasn't even thinking of sex when I put touch last. I didn't even get beyond considering mundane things like walking without tripping, using a keyboard/mouse, cooking, or holding something fragile (or squirmy, like a baby).

OhMarie

@leon s This is truly insane to me. Couldn't you get something out of having music on really loud and feeling the vibrations even if you couldn't hear? I heard a "strangest job" anecdote once about working at a really old punk club in a shitty building which was frequented by deaf folks because the walls vibrated a lot more than they did in good buildings.

NeverOddOrEven

@OhMarie
I've taken a lot of ASL classes and had all deaf teachers, and that's totally true. I'll never forget one telling the class that his favorite song was Roxanne and then signing it to us. Very impassioned, as is the whole language.
Keep in mind the fact that very few deaf people have absolutely no ability to hear anything whatsoever period the end, and it wouldn't be so bad if you ask me.

lucy snowe

My mother-in-law has never had a sense of smell.

I didn't know, until one night we were visiting, and she was holding her very old kittycat on her lap, stroking its back for maybe twenty minutes. I love kitties, but... when Phoebe Buffay wrote "Smelly Cat," I think she was thinking of this one. She was very old, and sick, and couldn't really clean herself anymore, and the scent was BLINDING. And I kept thinking, "Wow. She really, really loves that cat."

I mentioned it to my husband later, that I admired her ability to stay in that environment to give her kitty some love. He said, "Oh, she can't smell it. She can't smell a thing. Never has. That's why we have an electric range."

My sister-in-law has anosmia, too. I was worried my son might have it, so I've been doing little tests to see. He seems to be able to smell-- though babies have a very high tolerance for gross, so it's hard to tell. I hope so, though-- I love my sense of smell. I can't imagine life without it.

fondue with cheddar

Rather than take one deep sniff, take two or three short inhalations and then exhale. "That way you will avoid nose fatigue," he says.

I always get that when I'm trying to smell something because I inhale deeply. Dogs know how to do it right!

jagosaurus

Also, my sense of smell prevents me from going near cheese counters or into cheese shops. My life is tragic.

Smallison

One of the unexpected side effect of hypothyroidism is anosmia, with which I was recently diagnosed. It doesn't bother me much, I guess. I can still smell really strong smells (along with most stinky things. Go figure). I think it does affect my sense of taste a bit. I can tell when things are really super delicious, but I'm also willing to eat things that don't taste quite 'right'. Thank zeus my fiance does all the cooking!

olivebee

Random thoughts on smell:
-No matter how much smell you lose over time, one household smell that will always make its way into your brain and fry your system is the cat litterbox, so there's that.

-I think my favorite smell in the universe is the smell when you are walking down the street and pass an apartment building or house that is doing laundry, and the vents are pushing all that amazing laundry smell out into the air at you.

-I love really potent, toxic scents, namely gasoline and permanent markers, and when I was little, I use to sit there and sniff them (how I avoided the whole middle school "huffing" phenomenon is beyond me). My mom found me once hanging out near the gas can in the garage, and I'm pretty sure her first thought must have been, "My 8-year-old is a psychopath who is planning to burn down the house."

lucy snowe

@olivebee I like the scents of hot glue and rubber cement. Oh, and paint thinner!

But yeah, now I know better, and use ventilation. :)

olivebee

@lucy snowe Rubber cement smells so good! Too bad I haven't seen it anywhere since elementary school. Now I need to go find a craft that involves using it...

Inkling

@olivebee
How about when someone in the apartment is using the soap that someone you love uses? It's like a little scent ghost poofing up to you!

lucy snowe

@olivebee I used to paint my palms with rubber cement, then rub them together to make fake boogers.

I don't advise this. But they were really convincing.

Ladies Who Punch

This past year at the Headlands Center for the Arts [in Marin, CA] there was an artist who had like 50 beaker things set up in circles that were about nose level. At the bottom of each one he had a scent of some sort. You had to guess what they were ["frito chips", "vanilla", "nutmeg" etc] He had artificial scents like juicy fruit gum & more natural ones like cardamom. It was so amazing. It made it even more fascinating that I arrived late to the game & the papers with the possible guesses weren't on there so it was an even more wild guessing game.

ayo nicole

My grandma is losing her sense of smell and it's negatively affecting her ability to improvise in the kitchen. I can tell that it drives her crazy and it makes me so sad.

Pyxis

Does celery have a sent? It smells like nothing to me.

fondue with cheddar

@Pyxis I think it does, very much!

TARDIStime

@Pyxis It definitely does, but I can't describe it.
If you keep it in the fridge, it's one of the more Fridge-Smell-Absorby veges, so that might be why it's indescribable.

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