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Aug 11, 2010 11:43 AM

Do you smell your food?

Some discussions on other threads led me to consider the interaction of smell and taste. I remembered one day a while back, I noticed my wife pausing her fork full of food below her nose, taking a sniff, and then proceeding to taste it. At first, I feared that I had served her a foul piece of foul. Then I had the "aha" moment - she's just slowing down and carefully enjoying her food. Brilliant! Why didn't I think of this sooner?

Needless to say, I now frequently make myself slow down to smell what I am about to consume. I find that the olfactory contribution to taste should not be discounted or underappreciated -- rather, encouraged. I mean, there's a reason that red wine glasses are shaped the way they are, right? Now, admittedly, I do not savor every bite of every dish. Frankly, I'm not always that patient when hungry. However, if I'm about to have a slice of pata negra that I had to neglect the cable bill to afford, I'm gonna take a nice, big whiff ("I better smell acorns!").

So, now, I ask . . . Do you take the time to savor? . . . Do you stop and smell your food?

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  1. I usually take my hand and waft the steam coming off a hot plate of food toward me so I can breathe in the aroma. And occasionally I do take a discreet sniff of a forkful of food if it is particularly enticing or new to me. Good post!

    1 Reply
    1. re: ttoommyy

      I've done the hand-wafting thing. I've done it for other people, too: "ooh, smell this, it smells so good!"

    2. I ALWAYS smell my food (off the fork) when I'm eating high-end stuff (especially if there's something like truffles involved). Otherwise I'll stop to smell the food if something intrigues me...I guess it would be kind of weird if I stopped to smell a burger and french fries. lol

      1 Reply
      1. re: joonjoon

        but burgers and fries smell so good! high end or not, i love the smell of food. and yes, i do smell it as i'm eating it, and before.

      2. The first time I really made a conscious decision to smell my food was after I noticed on Top Chef that that the 1st thing the judges always did after being presented with a dish was to lean down very close to the food and take a sniff. This really does enhance the experience. Smelling each forkfull? I'll have to try that as I'm always looking for ways to slow down and savor my meals.

        1 Reply
        1. re: soypower

          Well, I admit that I'll generally stop sniffing after a few tastes - once I feel I have a good appreciation for the totality of flavors.

        2. I always smell my food, both when I am cooking something and when I am in a restaurant. I lean my full face about 4 inches from the plate or pot, and inhale deeply. I never even noticed that I do it until someone pointed it out. It's not about sniffing out poisons or anything. Most of our sense of taste is through our noses. When I was a cook by profession, I did this constantly I suppose, because I would have gotten bored and fat from constantly tasting everything on my tongue. I even learned to how smell salt and sugar, no joke.

          4 Replies
          1. re: pitterpatter

            I've been told you cannot smell sugar. But if I make two cups of tea for me and my mate, put sugar in one, then forget which, I can tell which one is sugared by the smell.

            He can't.

            1. re: Paulustrious

              I can smell sugar and assumed that everybody can. This is new! Whoops! Let me back up. I just went to the kitchen and did a little experiment. I cannot smell sugar or salt when they are dry. When they are wet, I cannot smell salt but I can smell sugar. Interesting...

              1. re: Caroline1

                I never really gave this much thought -- it was mostly instinctive. Perhaps in thinking I can smell salt, I am smelling the aromas during the salting process, and when they finally pull together "just so." About sugar -- after working 10 or so years as a pastry chef, let me tell you that sugar has a powerful aroma, especially when subjected to heat, and today I am repelled by sugar in all forms.

              2. re: Paulustrious

                Interesting. I wonder if I can tell salt from sugar by smell (just crystals in a dish)? I guess a lot of people can't, or you wouldn't have all those stories about how someone put in a bunch of salt rather than sugar. I can smell salt in a generously salted liquid solution, and I've had occasions when I thought I could smell a high concentration of MSG as well.

            2. Only when I'm by myself, but I always want to. My parents told me that was about the rudest thing I could do at the table because it showed I was mistrustful of the cook. I'm not mistrustful, I just enjoy it! So now I only do it sneakily.

              3 Replies
              1. re: RealMenJulienne

                I vaguely recall that admonition as well. It's ironic, actually, as I generally smell that food most worthy of savoring. Ultimately, I am complimenting the chef as I want no part of the tasting experience to escape me.

                1. re: RealMenJulienne

                  I grew up with a girl who was a very picky eater. She always smelled her food, and then usually preceded to make a bad face.

                  Therefore, in my mind it seems rude. I am always slightly embarrassed if someone sees me smelling food especially on the fork. I realize though that it is just an issue in my head.

                  1. re: Becca Porter

                    Maybe, it's not the smelling, but some folks' reaction.

                    Normally, I do smell, and then a big smile crosses my face.

                    I'll often pick out small portions and sniff them lovingly. Often, I will instruct my wife to sniff/taste some aspect of the meal, and then try it with one of the wines in front of us. I try to not tell her what I am experiencing, and ask what she discovers. Sometimes, it is what I am finding, and sometimes it is totally opposed to what I found.

                    Still, the sense of smell is a big part of food for us.