Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Smells Don't Lie

Growing up vegetarian from birth, I was quite alarmed when one day, fish was brought to the house by none other than my mother, and was pan-fried for a feast as if to advertise the alarming fact by amplifying the scent. There was a good reason for the fish – my baby brother was extremely anemic and needed that extra nutritional boost to get him back on track. I had no intentions of standing in his way of growing up, but to me it seemed like an excuse for frequent fish-feasts throughout that summer and onwards. My distaste for the aroma of frying fish was not something I tried to hide. It was well advertised just like the scent itself, elevated from a frying pan by the gas flames and filling out the tiny hut in the heat of the summer. And like any good mother, mine tried to hide the fact by covering it up with white lies. I’d come back from school, to find the frying pan cleaner than ever or in the sink, and the house filled with a scent that would not embarrass a fisherman’s house. There is only one thing that can explain her embarrassed surprise when hearing my loud cry: “you fried fish again?!”. My mom has acquired anosmia sometime in her later adulthood.

While the fried fish is something anyone (except anosmiacs, of course), even without an acute sense of smell, would be able to pick up on immediately, I was able to tell when food went bad way before anyone else in the family did. Living without refrigerator (and with an anosmiac mother) made this skill particularly handy. But while most of my family could enjoy a day-old dish, even after I made it very clear the food is already deteriorating, I just sat there and watched them, puzzled…

To this day, I go through my day heavily relying on my sense of smell to assess my environment, and I can often guess what my partner had done in the house before I came in just by the smell in the house. My favourite thing ever though was guessing which shampoo he used by sniffing his head… The scent of the shampoo changes on the skin and hair, so that makes the game a bit challenging sometimes.

I get particularly excited whenever the sense of smell is acknowledged by people in a surprising way. So I was particularly excited when last night, when I watched an episode of Monk with David, the murder mystery was solved as the detective’s assistant Natalie recognized an after-taste of Aqua-Velva in her wine. The body of the victim (well, to be precise, the almost victim as he really died of a heart-attack before the murderer had a chance to get him) was hidden in a barrel. He doused himself with the aftershave the night before.

Did you ever find out something a person wanted to hide from you thanks to your sense of smell? Which mysteries did your nose solve for you? Share your stores and enter to win a miniature of Roses et Chocolat, my new limited edition for Valentine’s Day!

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6 Comments:

At January 10, 2007 12:43 AM, Anonymous Leopoldo said...

I've always been used to sniff whether things have started to turn in the fridge. The amount of milk bottles I've had my nose in defies counting...

 
At January 10, 2007 8:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi - left you a comment last night, and don't see it posted did you receive it? minette (from pol)

 
At January 10, 2007 8:11 PM, Blogger Ayala Sender said...

Leopoldo,
Isn't it great you can get your nose to do the dirty work for you?

Minette,
No, I didn't get your message yesterday, so please post it again. Perhaps you didn't enter the anti-robot code properly? Looking forward to read what you have to tell us!

 
At January 12, 2007 11:16 AM, Anonymous Hilda Rosa said...

I used to teach high school students and one day in class
while collecting their essays, I said I could tell who
smoked just by smelling the essay. So of course I had to
prove it. Everyone gathered around as I smelled each essay
and declared "Smoker", Occasional Smoker", "Non-smoker" and
even "Has a parent or friend who is a Smoker". It was
treated as a light-hearted event rather than an exposé, so
everyone was quite laughing with amusement but also
astounded to find that I was right about 90% of the time.

This 'talent' enhanced my reputation as a teacher and every
new student would ask to be 'tested' when they handed in
their work. When a student quit smoking, they would often
proudly hand in their work and say "Here, SMELL THIS!"

Recently I was at a Sarah Harmer concert and went backstage
to greet her since she had been a student of mine many years
ago. She remembered me as her English teacher and then told
everyone how one day in class I held up her essay and said
she was a "Smoker". We all had a good laugh about that!

(Sarah is a very talented singer- songwriter with strong
values and high standards. She was a warm wonderful student
and I am so pleased that she has followed her dreams and is
successful without compromising her beliefs in her music! I
really recommend her CD's and her concerts. Very special!)

Hilda Rosa

 
At January 13, 2007 8:57 AM, Blogger Theresa said...

I was visiting the Taipei 101 building in Taiwan with some friends and as we were riding up the escalator in the mall area, I sniffed and asked, "Is there a Lush (handmade soap and fragrances) store in here?" My friends looked at me like I was crazy, but I was vindicated when we rode a few floors up, and found the store. The same sort of thing happened recently at a mall in Japan. I love this store, and since there isn't one close to home, I'm always really excited to come across one.

 
At January 15, 2007 1:58 PM, Blogger Dana said...

During medical school, I was told that using all my senses during a physical exam is a very important skill; of course, taste was not mentioned, and smell was barely addressed. This was brought home by a case I saw in a pediatric ER. Without giving too many details (in order to protect my patient's confidentiality), he was a young boy who had shown up at school not making any sense, complaining of numbness in his arms and dizziness. The school nurse was mystified. The diagnosis was obvious once I smelled his breath. He was drunk.

Luckily, his blood alcohol level was not too high as to be really toxic. His parents were able to take him home to sleep it off, planning a heart-to-heart discussion about substance abuse.

 

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