Nosy about food?
While walking through the parking lot of a local restaurant after a meal last spring, I commented to my oldest son that “food usually smells better than it tastes…” Surprisingly he agreed! We never agree.
Perhaps our sense of smell, in addition to preceding our sense of taste, is keener. Try eating your favorite food with a head cold- it doesn’t taste very good. I believe our sense of smell is very important in making decisions concerning food. If our nose likes it, we precede to the next level- the palate. Here there is not always total agreement. Some foods smell really good, but don’t live up to expectations. Think vending carts in downtown Boston. That sausage smells great while it’s sizzling and cooking, but doesn’t always taste so great once you’ve paid for it and start to eat it. Later in the day you might even pay again. Fried liver and onions appeals to my nose, but definitely not to my palate; love the smell, hate the taste! On the flip side, some cheeses smell toxic, but taste great!
Many foods and beverages smell incredible while they’re hot and being cooked or brewed. Coffee, roasted peanuts, popcorn, bacon, sautéed peppers & onions, chocolate chip cookies, apple pies, hot dogs steamed in beer; to name a few, all tempt a curious nose. It’s not that visuals, sounds, experience, and memories don’t play an important role in our food choices; it’s just that our noses are key.
Back in the day I drove a “Roach Coach” and the secret ingredient in my steamed hot dogs was found in unopened cans of beer left over from the night before. Once the steamer full of beer was hot those dogs smelled incredible, effectively luring construction workers over for a double dose and as early as seven a.m.! I tried them and honestly they were nothing special, but it was the smell of them steaming in beer that hooked my customers. They stood in line waiting for a hot dog steamed in the cheap beer (Pabst Blue Ribbon, Old Milwaukee) I rescued from a Styrofoam cooler in the trunk of my car. They urged me to open a restaurant! Lums was a very successful hot dog chain that steamed their dogs in beer. They also sold cold pitchers of beer which didn’t hurt business either.
I suppose the point is that if you can tempt the schnozzle you can sell some food. I’m not a big fan, but Burger King must exhaust their flame-broiled fumes into the open air because the perimeter around their fast food restaurants smells incredible. Same goes for seafood restaurants and pizza joints, especially those with open window counters on the boardwalk. And who can resist the smell outside a Chinese restaurant, a steak house, a bakery, a chocolaterie, or a breakfast joint? It appears that without our noses we wouldn’t know what or where to eat! Cut onions may make us cry, but once caramelized they have an aroma all their own that's very tempting! Pastries baked with cinnamon appeal to our sense of smell too.
It’s not only hot foods that tempt. Go into a Delicatessen and smell the freshly sliced corned beef and the split half sours- an irresistible aroma in its own right.
A smart restaurateur knows the secret to enticing patrons is to first arouse their sense of smell. That just may be the secret to ‘good home cooking’ which is usually served up at the kitchen table or in a dining room off the kitchen where those wonderful smells arrive before the meal and stay till the end.
You’re nosing around in the kitchen so pay attention! Your sense of smell just may be telling you what’s good to eat, but be advised- your nose and your palate don’t always agree.