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The smell of raw eggs, milk, and chicken


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#1 Verjuice

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 06:34 AM

I like milk. I like eggs. But the smell of either, in their untreated state, will send me dry-heaving to the nearest corner. Ditto raw chicken,and most importantly, any plates or glasses that have been in contact with eggs or milk and have not been adequately scrubbed (read several times in boiling hot water).

I'm not sure I can explain it. It's not a food allergy but it is a powerful instinctive sensory reaction. When we were kids, me and my brother, who shares this repulsion, bonded over it. We'd throw one another shifty glances of concern and dismay when dining with certain relatives who cooked with harrowing amounts of animal fat and whose flatware always had a certain, perspiration-inducing stench. We used to try and subtlely sniff cutlery when dining out to make sure that nothing (spoons in particular were a source of alarm) didn't possess The Smell. Water glasses were most suspect. If, regrettably, we learned that we had drunk from a tainted glass before performing the ritual, our involuntary reflex was an instantaneous, explosive gag. We always agreed on what smelled bad and what didn't and our parents thought we were finicky- and nuts.

Then, last week, I came to Lebanon. My mother's homeland, though she wasn't raised here. Today, I met with a local anthropologist and a food writer, among others, for a wonderful, delicious lunch. When it was time for dessert, one of my dining companions dipped his spoon into his ice cream, lifted it to his mouth, sniffed, then quietly set the spoon down and whispered conspiratorially, "Avoid the ice cream, it's al-zinkha".

This led to a fascinating discussion about a cultural sensitivity to the smell of certain animal products.

Everyone at the table understood the impulse perfectly. Some thought it might be hereditary, as in the case of those present who had been raised abroad, but could not, for example, abide the smell of their breakfast plates after all the runny egg had been eaten, and had separate quarantined sponges in the kitchen for such tasks.

Okay, so this has little peculiarity has played a background note in many of my food-related adventures since childhood, but until lunch today, it had never occurred to me that it wasn't a less than charming personal idiosyncrasy. I was so excited to discover that I wasn't alone that I came home and googled it immediately. Alas and alack, I found nothing.

Does anyone have any idea what I'm talking about?

Edited by Verjuice, 30 June 2006 - 07:00 AM.


#2 Pontormo

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 07:50 AM

:unsure:

No, Verjuice. No one knows.

There is nothing like the smell of eggs in the morning.

Freshly cracked, viscous.

See that little stringy thing dangling in with the gluey clear whites?

Hold that up to your nose.

Sniff.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!
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#3 Pontormo

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 07:51 AM

P.S. Have you tried adding tarragon?
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The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

#4 Verjuice

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 08:01 AM

P.S.  Have you tried adding tarragon?

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Adding tarragon to what?
I love love eggs... fried, poached, scrambled, soft-boiled, in a quiche, in a cake, whatever. But I just can't inhale when I'm cracking them. Please don't make fun of me. I'm one of the good people.

ETA: Pontormo has kindly pointed out to me that the tarragon reference came from my very own sig line. Ahem. :laugh:

Edited by Verjuice, 30 June 2006 - 08:38 AM.


#5 jgm

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 08:17 AM

Some abilities to smell certain things are known to be hereditary. When I worked in the local coroner's office, every staff member had to smell a sample of cyanide so that we could have a record of who could, and could not, smell it. I suppose the plan was, that if cyanide poisoning was suspected, a staff member who had tested positive for their ability to identify it, could be brought into the lab. But we were told that our ability to detect the bitter almond smell of cyanide was hereditary.

Knowing that, I would think it entirely possible that other types of chemicals and/or compounds would be smelled more strongly by some members of the population than others. We do know that some people are supertasters, and have more taste buds than the rest of the population. And the perfume industry hires individuals that have an ability to detect and identify certain substances.

While I've not heard of your specific situation before, I have no trouble understanding what you're talking about. My question is, is it a blessing or a curse?

Edited by jgm, 30 June 2006 - 08:18 AM.


#6 miladyinsanity

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 08:40 AM

Some abilities to smell certain things are known to be hereditary.  When I worked in the local coroner's office, every staff member had to smell a sample of cyanide so that we could have a record of who could, and could not, smell it.  I suppose the plan was, that if cyanide poisoning was suspected, a staff member who had tested positive for their ability to identify it, could be brought into the lab.  But we were told that our ability to detect the bitter almond smell of cyanide was hereditary.

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If I remember correctly, it's something like 20-25% of the general population who'll be able to detect cyanide with just a smell.

Verjuice, if it helps you feel better, I can't stand the smell of canola oil. And I swear to God, beansprouts Do Have a Smell and a Taste. :wacko:
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#7 highchef

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 09:13 AM

"Avoid the ice cream, it's al-zinkha".

What does this mean??

Otherwise, I was going to ask how you ate eggs without smelling them. I guess you just stop breathing for a bit.

I cannot stand the smell of horshradish anymore, but that did not occur until after I got food poisoning. Perhaps you and your brother share a past experience that you don't remember, but your olfactory and adrenal glands remember all too well.
I do think a lot of what we can/cannot do is hereditary including levels of taste and smell. It wouldn't make much sense if your level of sensitivity didn't have something to do with genetics...every other ability (or potential for) you have does.

#8 persiancook

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 11:06 AM

This is very interesting.

In Farsi, we even have a word for the smell of dish that has touched raw eggs and has not been washed "adequately." Long before learning about salmonella, I was washing anything that came into contact with raw eggs with boiling water.

Everyone in my family is sensitive to the smell, and avoids it. Perhaps it is cultural.

Like Verjuice, I also love eggs in almost every preparation, but abhor the smell of raw eggs.

Edited by persiancook, 30 June 2006 - 11:06 AM.


#9 highchef

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 12:03 PM

This is very interesting.

In Farsi, we even have a word for the smell of dish that has touched raw eggs and has not been washed "adequately." Long before learning about salmonella, I was washing anything that came into contact with raw eggs with boiling water.

Everyone in my family is sensitive to the smell, and avoids it. Perhaps it is cultural.

Like Verjuice, I also love eggs in almost every preparation, but abhor the smell of raw eggs.

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Genetic memory?

#10 JanMcBaker

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 12:17 PM

Maybe this place can give you some information--- www.monell.org

The Monell Center is a non-profit independent scientific institute dedicated to interdisciplinary basic research on the senses of taste, smell, and chemosensory irritation.

Good luck!
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#11 petite tête de chou

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 12:26 PM

I know what you're talking about, Verjuice. I'm pretty okay with the smell of raw eggs (cooked eggs are a bit icky) but raw chicken? Gah. I can smell it even after washing my hands in super hot water with tons of soap. And, often, milk will have a slightly spoiled, weird lactosy ( :raz: ) reek about it that turns me off. I prepare eggs occasionally, chicken frequently and only have milk in my coffee. Oddly enough I don't recoil from cheese like I do milk. Now that I'm thinking about it, the smell of raw eggs *isn't* "pretty okay." Ah well. My husband loves milk, adores scrambled eggs and could eat chicken breast almost every night so I've learned to deal with it. :rolleyes:
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#12 chile_peppa

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 01:30 PM

I know exactly what you are talking about. Since childhood, I have a strong aversion reaction to the smell of the three foods you mention: eggs, milk, and chicken. I have never been able to drink fresh milk -- the smell nauseates me, and it is probably a good thing as I am extremely lactose-intolerant. Even a teaspoonful of fresh milk or cream in my coffee causes a horrible reaction. I cannot eat plain eggs, and I couldn't eat chicken until I was an adult and was finally able to talk myself past the underlying smell. Genetic, or whatever, the phenomenon is real.

Edited by chile_peppa, 30 June 2006 - 01:31 PM.

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#13 Verjuice

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 01:42 PM

"Avoid the ice cream, it's al-zinkha".

What does this mean??

Otherwise, I was going to ask how you ate eggs without smelling them. I guess you just stop breathing for a bit.

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As I said, I don't have a problem with smelling them once they've been exposed to heat. It's the, um... how to describe it, the high-pitched sort of metallic smell of sticky-kindergarten-tables stench that wafts from a raw egg or a plate that has had runny yolk on it. This evil smell has tentacles that grant it the potential to latch on to flatware after it has been washed.

Al-zinkha was the Arabic word used by one of my dining companions to describe an otherwise edible product that has been tainted with the smell of an unclean animal. It was understood by everyone at the table but it was the first time I'd heard it.

#14 Verjuice

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 01:43 PM

I know exactly what you are talking about. Since childhood, I have a strong aversion reaction to the smell of the three foods you mention: eggs, milk, and chicken. I have never been able to drink fresh milk -- the smell nauseates me, and it is probably a good thing as I am extremely lactose-intolerant.  Even a teaspoonful of fresh milk or cream in my coffee causes a horrible reaction. I cannot eat plain eggs, and I couldn't eat chicken until I was an adult and was finally able to talk myself past the underlying smell. Genetic, or whatever, the phenomenon is real.

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Yay. The extended eG family phenomenon strikes. :smile:

Do you get it with any other foods? I can't think of any myself.

#15 Verjuice

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 01:48 PM

Ah well. My husband loves milk, adores scrambled eggs and could eat chicken breast almost every night so I've learned to deal with it.  :rolleyes:

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You're a saint. I volunteered in a kitchen where we prepared meals for disabled people using handouts from the food depot... mostly stuff slightly past its prime. One day, I was faced with twelve crates of government eggs... many were cracked, and the odor was just indescribably overwhelming.

I should add that the smell always seems to be much stronger with the commercially-raised product and not quite as bad with fresh organic eggs (could be psychological). Oh man. I ran for the door like my life depended on it.

#16 petite tête de chou

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 01:53 PM

Verjuice, are you able to eat these three foods comfortably?
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#17 Verjuice

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 02:07 PM

Verjuice, are you able to eat these three foods comfortably?

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Yeah. No allergies there. I love cooked eggs and I'll even eat them raw in the right dish (though I'll start with a small nibble and inhale slowly as I do so). Milk- I'm not a huge fan of straight milk in a glass purely because I don't want it that close to my face, but I have it in hot bevvies and on oatmeal or whatever. Whole milk has the strongest smell and skim smells like spit. But I like both. Chicken, eh. Chicken is chicken. Not my favorite but I certainly don't dislike it. Chicken breasts always smell worse than thighs. And that's a fact. :wink:

#18 petite tête de chou

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 02:22 PM

Verjuice, are you able to eat these three foods comfortably?

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Yeah. No allergies there. I love cooked eggs and I'll even eat them raw in the right dish (though I'll start with a small nibble and inhale slowly as I do so). Milk- I'm not a huge fan of straight milk in a glass purely because I don't want it that close to my face, but I have it in hot bevvies and on oatmeal or whatever. Whole milk has the strongest smell and skim smells like spit. But I like both. Chicken, eh. Chicken is chicken. Not my favorite but I certainly don't dislike it. Chicken breasts always smell worse than thighs. And that's a fact. :wink:

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I'm fine with eating eggs (not raw. can't handle the slime) and chicken, too. Milk and ice-cream, however, give me a stomach-ache if I have more than, say, a half-cup in one sitting. And forget gobs of ooey-gooey nausea-inducing cheese on a pizza or grilled cheese sandwiches. I'm fine with hard cheeses and moldy cheeses, however. I agree about the breasts reeking more than the thighs. I wonder why that is? Oh, and raw turkey is even *worse* smelling.
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#19 chile_peppa

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 02:32 PM

I know exactly what you are talking about. Since childhood, I have a strong aversion reaction to the smell of the three foods you mention: eggs, milk, and chicken. I have never been able to drink fresh milk -- the smell nauseates me, and it is probably a good thing as I am extremely lactose-intolerant.  Even a teaspoonful of fresh milk or cream in my coffee causes a horrible reaction. I cannot eat plain eggs, and I couldn't eat chicken until I was an adult and was finally able to talk myself past the underlying smell. Genetic, or whatever, the phenomenon is real.

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Yay. The extended eG family phenomenon strikes. :smile:

Do you get it with any other foods? I can't think of any myself.

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It's these three in particular. Other animal products, such as butter and other kinds of meat, also smell a little off to me, but the aversion factor is not so strong. I can actually smell the barnyard (or feedlot these days) in pork products. Maybe there is something to that idea going around a few years ago regarding a genetic predisposition to certain kinds of diets.

Edited to add this: When I was very small, I lived on a farm where my grandmother kept a few chickens. My memory tells me that those free-range chickens and their eggs had an even stronger aroma than current factory-produced poultry products.

In all three cases, the smell I perceive has an underlying tinge of decay, regardless of how fresh the eggs, milk, or chicken might be.

Once when I was frying some chicken, my former husband commented on how good it smelled. I had been about to say how awful it smelled to me! And, yes, I learned to cook chicken just for him.

Edited by chile_peppa, 30 June 2006 - 03:00 PM.

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#20 cdh

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 02:43 PM

Wow... I've never thought that raw eggs had any kind of smell. What does it smell like? Can you fit it into any particular category of smells? I know there are sulfur compounds in there, so are they sulfurous? Or metallic? Or rubbery?

How do you find the smell of hard boiled eggs?

Similar questions on the raw chicken... I can't recall ever noticing a particular odor associated with it. I wonder if it is there in my consciousness and I'm not attuned to it, or if I just can't detect it.

Edited by cdh, 30 June 2006 - 02:44 PM.

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#21 silentmeow

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 04:11 PM

Raw chicken is offensive and I have to wash my hands several times to get the smell off! I've bought several pair of tongs just so that I don't have to handle it any more than necessary! Another smell that is offensive to me is imitation strawberry. I love strawberries, fresh, frozen I'll eat them all but that fake flavoring they put in candy and stuff is horrible. I can smell it from across a room! I'll check out that site, sounds interesting.

#22 SuzySushi

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 04:25 PM

Hmmmnnnn... is the aversion just to raw eggs, milk, and chicken/turkey, or does it include other animal protein?

In 19th and early 20th century Japan, there was the phenomenon of bata-kusai ("butter stink"), a term used to describe the foul odor of Westerners -- which the Japanese attributed to their eating butter and other animal proteins. Article

Even today, vegetarians claim that non-vegetarians have a stronger body odor. I haven't read any particular references to whether vegetarians, as a class, are more sensitive to the odors of raw animal protein sources than non-vegetarians.
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#23 BeeZee

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 05:51 PM

Praise be, confirmation that I'm not nuts (well, sort of)...
Now that we are grilling a lot, I'm faced with the platter that the raw chicken was placed on for transport to the grill. If by chance DH washes it, when he's not looking I take a quick sniff (to confirm that yes, it still has a taint of raw chicken smell) and I re-wash in water as hot as I can stand. Can't define the smell other than "raw meat" and unpleasant to me. Have no problem with milk. Eggs, I avoid since I can't stand to eat them, so the only time I have them is for baking cookies. And same thing with the glass bowl they get broken into, it must be washed first in scalding hot water (no contact with sponge, to avoid contamination), then soak with hot soapy water, then rinse, then wash again with soap.
I do know I have a fairly sensitive palate, I have helped to do product testing for my husband's company when they need to test one ingredient vs. another to see if it affects taste.
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#24 gus_tatory

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Posted 30 June 2006 - 09:07 PM

In 19th and early 20th century Japan, there was the phenomenon of bata-kusai ("butter stink"), a term used to describe the foul odor of Westerners -- which the Japanese attributed to their eating butter and other animal proteins. Article

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this is so interesting, because i considered posting back to this thread earlier today, wondering if it was a personal or cultural thing, or both.
there are definitely smells i'd prefer to avoid dealing with, as in prolonged exposure to raw chicken. but then there's smells like the slightly sour pate smell, where i would just chuck it.
...
But I don't mean to hijack the thread: there's some smells that are just plain 'bad', and some that appear to have socio-cultural attachment(s)...
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#25 srhcb

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Posted 01 July 2006 - 05:12 AM

As animals, we all have the inherent ability to use our sense of smell the ways other creatures do, but civilization has discouraged us from doing so. Some individuals, and perhaps even cultures, retain these abilities either consciously or subconsciously.

You'll notice most of the foods posters have mentioned can be dangerous in raw form. Nature provided us with a means of determining their safety long before the government decided to mandate "expiration dates" for our "safety".

An unpleasant odor, just like a disturbing sight or disruptive sound, is trying to convey information to us. Learn to decipher and use it.

SB (expressions like "nose for news" and "smell of fear" are/were literal)

#26 miladyinsanity

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Posted 01 July 2006 - 06:04 AM

Hmmmnnnn... is the aversion just to raw eggs, milk, and chicken/turkey, or does it include other animal protein?

In 19th and early 20th century Japan, there was the phenomenon of bata-kusai ("butter stink"), a term used to describe the foul odor of Westerners -- which the Japanese attributed to their eating butter and other animal proteins. Article

Even today, vegetarians claim that non-vegetarians have a stronger body odor. I haven't read any particular references to whether vegetarians, as a class, are more sensitive to the odors of raw animal protein sources than non-vegetarians.

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What you eat does change the way you smell. It's a fact.
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#27 Verjuice

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Posted 01 July 2006 - 06:50 AM

Wow... I've never thought that raw eggs had any kind of smell.  What does it smell like?  Can you fit it into any particular category of smells?  I know there are sulfur compounds in there, so are they sulfurous?  Or metallic?  Or rubbery? 

How do you find the smell of hard boiled eggs? 

Similar questions on the raw chicken... I can't recall ever noticing a particular odor associated with it.  I wonder if it is there in my consciousness and I'm not attuned to it, or if I just can't detect it.

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I tried to describe the smell upthread but I did a lousy job. I'll give it another shot.

Hard boiled eggs smell like hard boiled eggs. Actually, to me if they are overcooked the smell of sulfur can be too much. Hard boiled eggs are one of the only foods I am picky about but I suspect that is just a matter of personal taste as opposed to the subject at hand.

Raw eggs, milk and chicken smell different from one another, however they all share kind of a... hm... a cold weather kind of metallic, tight, organic, dog-saliva-like odor. That odor is compounded with a funky smell like a damp barnyard. Just the merest waft of it can feel overwhelmingly revolting, as in, I'll need to turn around and grip the edge of a table or something because it just stuns me.

Not like body odor, or sweat, just this damp smell, like the breath of someone who is sick with a cold. A cold, bacterial smell, but not quite to the point of smelling like decay.

In my clinical work, I have found that some practitioners are able to walk into a room and immediately be able to detect the smell of certain diseases. Some are very subtle. Certain medications can make a person smell metallic... or sweet...

or off topic...

Homework:
Dip you finger in a beaten raw egg. Wait three seconds. Sniff. Report back.

Edited by Verjuice, 01 July 2006 - 06:51 AM.


#28 srhcb

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Posted 01 July 2006 - 07:16 AM

RE: "they all share kind of a... hm... a cold weather kind of metallic, tight, organic, dog-saliva-like odor. That odor is compounded with a funky smell like a damp barnyard."

That's a very accurate description. I know what you mean, although I don't have the severe reaction to it that you do.

SB (It also reminds me of the smell they try to cover up in a hospital, or mortuary)

#29 cdh

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Posted 01 July 2006 - 08:35 AM

I don't have any raw eggs handy right now, but I did just pour a glass of milk... I can detect no odor from it at all. If it is the same class of odor from all of the things that bother you, I'm just incapable of detecting it.
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#30 miladyinsanity

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Posted 01 July 2006 - 10:27 AM

I don't have any raw eggs handy right now, but I did just pour a glass of milk...  I can detect no odor from it at all.  If it is the same class of odor from all of the things that bother you, I'm just incapable of detecting it.

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It's like cyanide. Only a certain percentage of the population will detect something like that, and then it's probably hereditary.

Both my mom and I will say the same thing after tasting something, for instance.
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