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Apr 27, 2001 11:57 AM

food that tastes person-like

  • g

I'm not sure how to phrase this question (I've been thinking about it for years and asking people in various ways and never seem to get it quite right). Does anyone else have the experience of thinking that certain foods taste, for lack of a better way of putting it, human?

For instance, I've always thought that salty lassi tastes like a bodily fluid. Not a specific one; that is, it doesn't taste like blood or sweat or whatever, but rather it tastes as though it is a thing that comes from the body. Likewise I ate a pig-foot and okra stew at a local Ivorian place recently that tasted musky in a way not entirely unlike pheremones smell.

I should make it clear that I don't find this unplesant in any way. Quite the contrary, lassi is one of my favorite things and moreover I generally like the heady, intense experience of musky flavors. But I haven't found anyone else who either a) has this experience, or b) seems to like it as much as I do. I think this may be because I'm not explaining it well, but that might not be it.


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  1. Wish I had more time to elaborate (it's deadline day here at work)--but I know exactly what you mean. Whether it's the smell or the taste--I experience the same phenomenon at times. (Tomato soup can smell/taste "sweaty," okra "musty," certain cheeses like a locker room after the game.) But, like you, I continue to love all these foods. It's, weird, tho, isn't it? I guess there's a perfectly good chemical answer to this--but I'm no chemist. Any chemists out there? (And does the explanation tie into why some dogs are so fond of eating what's just left their systems?? :-)

    14 Replies
    1. re: Lynn

      I have tried and tried to get past the vomit smell of blue cheeses (sorry). I've even tried holding my nose while eating. However,I've never met a smelly, black, moldy goat cheese I didn't love, especially with a great red. They taste earthy, musky and sexy while the blues...I've started observing that many blue cheese lovers find the goat cheeses revolting. And maybe that is why there are so many wonderful things to taste in the world, because we all respond so differently. ( Even if I knew how to taste morning after foie gras I don't think I'd like it,see blue cheese above).

      1. re: J. Hinze
        Jeremy Osner

        Funny, I like both blue cheeses and goat cheeses -- they are different, yes, but similar enough that it had not occurred to me that people would commonly like one but not the other. But then I like liverwurst too...

        1. re: Jeremy Osner

          Well hung grouse has a sort of human flavour, or maybe we're back to that dirty, stinky, sweaty thing, it's more about the aroma.

          You could argue that, as well hung game is rotting flesh, by eating it, you are consuming decay and therefore triumphing over it. Perhaps it's all about the search for immortality.

          1. re: Andy Lynes

            to me papaya tastes like regurgitated food. not vomit per se, but when food "backs up" on you...i am not fond of papaya for that reason. i also once had a dish that was korean (and came bubbling in a pot to the table) that had that weird, unwashed, musky strange persony fragrance/taste. i have no idea what it was called because the menu was not in engilsh.

            1. re: rhiannon
              Michele Cindy

              I can't eat goat cheese because it tastes like a petting zoo smells! I know it's inpolite to spit out your food, but if I accidentally eat it, I must. But I love stilton and bleu cheese. I guess that's because they do not taste like dirty goats.

              1. re: rhiannon

                I love tropical fruits more than anything but can't get over the papaya-regurgitation flavor...I don't think this is exactly what he was talking about regarding person-like tastes, but MAN, I know what you mean! I can't eat it either, and it's the TYPE of thing I would love (a good mango might be my single favorite thing in the world).

                1. re: Nils

                  It's possible you've never had a really great ripe papaya. If you have and still hate it, I guess that just leaves more papayas for me. The Hawaiian papayas tend to have a nice perfume, but there's nothing like a ripe Malaysian papaya in Malaysia. [A big smile come across my face as I remember that taste.]

                  1. re: Pan

                    Stinky feet -- that's all I can say about the papaya. While it is sweet, it's hard to get past the feel/dirty underwear smell/taste.

                    1. re: Pan

                      Mexican papayas, 5-10 pound size, dead-ripe and heaven!! I bought one at lunch on a summer's day and brought it into work to keep it out of the sun. The whole cubicle area smelled of its fragrance.

                      (Do those of you with this affliction have any ideas whether the green papayas they shred into salads also taste gross to you?)

            2. re: J. Hinze
              Caitlin McGrath

              If you just can't get past the smell of something, it's unlikely you'll ever want to eat it, because smell actually makes up a large component of the sense of taste. People who lose their sense of smell generally cannot taste well and find that things don't taste so good anymore.

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                My husband lost his sense of smell in college (long story) and likes to argue with people about this point. He maintains that he tastes quite well and enjoys eating immensely. From my viewpoint it seems that he's able to make fine taste distinctions even without smell. Not first-hand experience (as I've still got my own sense of smell), but I'll throw it out there.

                Deb H.

                1. re: Deb H.
                  Caitlin McGrath

                  Interesting. I've heard/read in general about it, but also heard from someone who had lost the sense of smell as was in a permanent food funk. Perhaps it varies from person to person and your husband was lucky, or perhaps it depends on how the sense of smell is lost, i.e. which and how extensively the nerves are damaged or severed.

                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    Not sure what the exact reason is for his ability to taste/enjoy food w/o being able to smell it, but I do know I'm glad we can enjoy eating food together! Considering my food/cooking obsession, it'd be a bummer not to be able to share that.

                    Deb H.

                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                      Last spring, I had the flu, and bronchitis, etc, and I lost my sense of smell for about a month. I could not taste mint, or any other herbs and most spices, but both black and red pepper. It made seasoning the food simpler. My daughter noticed the difference in my cooking. For me, there was no point in trying to duplicate what I had been doing previously. While everything was tasteless in a sort of one-dimensional way, there was still texture, temperature, and richness.

                      At the time I was working in a lab, and we would frequently ask each other, "What does that smell like to you?" Finally I had an excuse not to sniff the noxious stuff.

            3. Oysters definitely taste vulva-like.

              Cumin smells like sweaty basketball players.

              And that malaysian shrimp paste is kinda like stinky feet.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Jason Perlow
                Brandon Nelson


                I saw your name on this reply and I was already laughing. Tastes like vulva? That certainly beats "tastes like chicken!"

                On a serious note, I know what qualities Gabriel is alluding to. A ripe mango makes me think of a "nightclub" type mixture of sweat and perfume. This thread ought to be mucho interesting.


                1. re: Jason Perlow

                  I think Evian tastes like a chlorine/feet combo, and I actually physically can't drink it. I don't think oysters necessarily taste, uh, vulvic so much as you associate them with that because of their look and the whole aphrodisiac thing...I think there are a lot of foods like that which have a human connection and we then lay humanlike _tastes_ on them that aren't necessarily there. There are also intense or disgusting odors (certain cheese, dried fish, etc) which aren't necessarily human-like but _seem_ like they should be.

                  This one is way out there, but, um, well, anyone noticed how certain scrappy punk kids smell like tacos (or mainly, I think, corn tortillas)? Some adults too, I'm sure - but I first noticed this when I had a record store and all these dirty kids would hang out all the time. (I think it's more about the clothes than any body odor.) I have a feeling this relates to those who say cumin reminds them of basketball players and hippie girls...


                2. To me, cumin smells like a sweaty, stinky hippy girl I used to have a crush on in college. I try cook with it often.

                  I also find that rich meaty broths (chicken or beef in particular) have an unusual depth of appeal for me that I think is related to the primal warm salinity of amniotic fluid.

                  And maybe this is where I step beyond where most people can relate: I really like the smell of burning hair. I haven't met anyone else who feels this way.

                  1. this is a very sexy post (more subtle than jason "name that genitalia" perlow's). it's hard to be interested in men who don't really, really like food. especially funky food.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: emily
                      Gabriel Solis

                      Yeah, the pleasure of eating and the pleasure of sex are not really that far apart for me either. Actually, I sort of skirted that in my first post, mostly because it's easy to mis-interpret (or hard to express clearly). I think that musky flavor I liked in the stew is very similar to a musky-ness I get from mangoes (no, they don't taste similar to me, but it's a similar sensation), but only very ripe mangoes (which are the only kind I like). Put simply they taste like sex. But not like (at risk of indelicateness) sex organs. Nor, really, like the taste of a lover's neck (though closer). Something in that musky flavor is inescapably erotic. That's why I think it reminds me of pheremones. Incidentally, it's hard to be into women who don't really like food either, but for the same reason that it's hard for me to be into women who don't drink and who won't walk long distances, or who don't like to be too hot or too cold. I associate all of it with a certain disinclination to really experience life in all of its intensity. But I suppose this belongs on the "Not About Food board," if anywhere.


                    2. I can think of two foods that certainly qualify:

                      1. Open a can of Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup and tell me it doesn't smell like body odor;

                      2. Have some seared foie gras and (I don't mean to be indelicate here) the next morning if you regurgitate slightly, you relive a different taste than from the night before, but it is both unique and fantastic in it's depth of flavor. Unlike any other food taste I can think of. Has anyone else noticed this?