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Fat Guy

Smelling your food before you eat it

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I was out today with someone, an eGullet person actually -- I won't specifically say it was Chris Hennes -- and I noticed that before he tasted his food he would smell it. As a theoretical matter this makes sense for many reasons. But it has never been part of my routing. I wanted to get a read on whether I'm the only person here who doesn't do this, or he's the only one who does.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Smelling the food in front of you sort of happens passively to everybody with a working nose if the food is at all aromatic... sniffing is the more active verb here... are you asking if we sniff our food before consuming it? I don't.


Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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For me it depends. If I'm trying to dissect the meal or components I will poke, prod and sniff. If not I just eat, but out of habit I have noticed (or have pointed out to me) that I do at least sniff the first bite to try as I try to detect all the more subtle aromas.


Andrew Vaserfirer aka avaserfi

Host, eG Forums

avaserfirer@egstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

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Depends on the restaurant - If it is an innovative, creative restaurant with very unusual flavor combinations I tend to smell it to get a first idea about the food and the thoughts of the chef how he composed the dish. If it is the mom and pop shop around the corner for a quick lunch/dinner not so much.

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Absolutlely yes, whether it be dishes at a restaurant or at home-I smell the aromas, lifting the plate to within a whisker of my nose, (although I get some very pointed looks from the diners sitting around me in a restaurant).

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A psychologist once told me that smelling your food gives you another satisfaction in food besides simply chowing it down. She specialized in overweight disorders, and counseled her clients to smell their food deeply before taking a bite. She believed that consciously smelling food gave her clients some satisfaction in the food before eating, and encouraged them to eat less.

Do I sniff my food? I do if the dish smells especially yummy. Otherwise, I just start eating. But I must say the psychologist's theory is plausible.

Chris Hennes looks pretty skinny in his photos.

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It's not a general habit. When I do, it's for the wrong reasons--when my sense of smell alerts me that something is amiss (ex., the fish not fresh, something spoiled, etc.) and that I should approach my food with caution.

The one exception is with soups. Something about a steaming bowl of soup invites an appreciative whiff.

However, when I'm cooking, I do a lot of sniffing. I can almost always recognize by the smell when something is cooked. Even with baked goods (and I don't bake a lot) my nose is usually a better indicator than my timer when it's time to pull a cake or cookies out of the oven.



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my nose is usually a better indicator than my timer when it's time to pull a cake or cookies out of the oven.

That's fascinating. Could you try and describe how you differentiate between the smell of baked goods cooking and baked goods done? I fear I'd be too eager too soon to declare them done if I relied on smell alone ;)


 

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I do too! I try to recognize odours, those that are familiar and those that are not.

When I was a kid my mother and I had a game, whenever she added ingredients to what she was cooking (and I was too small to see what she was putting in), she asked me to detect the spices, etc..

That was great way to train my nose to analyse odours and flavours. I must say that now, I can identify ingredients better that some of my foddie friends. Sometimes there is an amazing difference between smell and taste…

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I agree with the smell of "knowing" when baking is ready...for some reason, I am able to tell if something is done. However, I find it strange to think about lifting a plate to smell the food. My son does this, it seems almost "insulting" to a cook, when this is done...like they are wary of what is on the plate. Now, if it is because you truly are liking the aroma, different story. But, to sniff everything put before you, seems "different". :unsure:

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my nose is usually a better indicator than my timer when it's time to pull a cake or cookies out of the oven.

That's fascinating. Could you try and describe how you differentiate between the smell of baked goods cooking and baked goods done? I fear I'd be too eager too soon to declare them done if I relied on smell alone ;)

Here's the best analogy I can come up with: think of toasting a piece of bread. It smells like warm bread, then toast, then burnt toast. When you get that hint of "toast" in a baked good, it's time to check it, regardless of what the timer says.

Works for me, anyway.



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Add another to the "absolutely I smell my food before eating it" column. Even at the mom 'n' pop restuarants here, there's something to be gained from sniffing the food. I use it as part of the meditation and reflection on the food before I cram it down my gullet.

And I'm also another person who uses her nose to tell her about the done-ness of baked goods. I think Linda has it right - when you smell that hint of toast, it's time to poke the cake.


Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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I can almost always recognize by the smell when something is cooked. Even with baked goods (and I don't bake a lot) my nose is usually a better indicator than my timer when it's time to pull a cake or cookies out of the oven.

Agree, although it would be hard to explain the difference in smell. I've also discovered that I can often tell by smell whether something has been salted enough. Again, no way to describe. But, so far as as I know, I don't sniff food before I eat unless there's something odd going on (unusual spicing, "is this off?", etc.).

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Interesting topic. I use sound to tell if something is nearly done or about to overcook. This works for saute's of course, not for baking.

Now back to the sniffing topic...


*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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When someone (and I won't say it was Fat Guy) drags you across Harlem because you HAVE to taste these amazing cookies, cookies so good they redefine the entire genre of cookie, cookies so good he was so breathless with anticipation that we walked right by the store the first time, I feel you owe it to the cookie and to the anonymous cookie-lover to give the cookies a fair shot. Meaning you ought to give them a deep sniff prior to biting into them, in my opinion. Although yes, I do actually do this all the time when I am actually trying to appreciate a food or beverage, as opposed to just seeking sustenance. I did NOT give last night's Taco Bell this treatment.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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So tell us about the cookies. Did you like them? Did they smell good? Did they live up to FG's ravings? Are you going to buy them? Again? Can we make them? Etc?

No, I don't sniff my cooked food. But I think I'll try...

I do sniff all meat before I cook it or before eating the leftovers a day or two later. I guess I am paranoid about eating contaminated foods and actually sniff a lot of leftovers because I'll eat them. DH would willingly eat all kinds of stuff which I am wont to pitch.


Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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1) sniff

2) cram it down

even at Taco Bell sniff some of that hot sauce they (aritificially) make some time.

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I did NOT give last night's Taco Bell this treatment.

I'm a sniffer. Always, whether it's when I open the container of milk from the fridge or at a fancy restaurant or at a cookie shop.

But, more importantly, why the hell are you eating at a Taco Bell if you're in New York, Hennes?


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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So tell us about the cookies. Did you like them? Did they smell good? Did they live up to FG's ravings? Are you going to buy them? Again? Can we make them? Etc?

The chocolate chip cookies were above average. The chocolate-chocolate chip were inferior, IMO. Both smelled good, however.

I did NOT give last night's Taco Bell this treatment.

But, more importantly, why the hell are you eating at a Taco Bell if you're in New York, Hennes?

I was no longer in New York, my flight had just landed back in OKC and it was time for Fourthmeal. I will make sure to give the hot sauce a smell next time, though, I promise.

For those who don't smell your food before eating it: why not? Smell is a critical component of taste: when you are tasting wines you give them a swirl and a sniff before tossing them back. Why not do the same with food?


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I dont go to The Bell often, maybe a few years ago, but there is more happening at The Bell than the Burger Palace.

thats if you dont live in CA or TX where you can go to a true local Taco Palace.

the crispy taco shells smell like corn etc etc.

just not anywhere as interestingly as the Local non-chain Taco Palace.

:huh:

if you were of the Chosen Many you could go here:

http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/tgJhbyAxCDfLie9pbF75xQ?select=AB8swNpd41giHHn2lz0FXQ

or here:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/taqueria-el-grullense-palo-alto

and be ordering the Green Wet Burrito of Carnita ( doesnt sound so good does it ) and you would ask for the carnita on the crispy side.

this would be a short visit to Heaven.


Edited by rotuts (log)

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Well it makes sense to sniff food. People sniff wine and such before they drink it so they can enjoy it more, so why not? Agreed its not for everyone...

For me if I lift the top off of a steaming pot and all the delicious flavors waft up into the air visibly it does in fact tempt me to poke my nose into it :)


Jade Shing!

It is nice to e-meet all of you ^_^

My Love of Kitchen Gear is a love of Kitchen Tools :)

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I've known professional cooks and long-time home cooks with the ability to smell when food was done. No timers for them. They're busy with something in the kitchen, then their heads swivel around, and they know it's time to take the food out of the oven or off the fire. A friend of a friend could smell if a dish was salted enough. (I have a hard time getting my head around that one.) Regrettably, I don't have the ability myself, but I suspect the ability can be developed, like so many other things. Maybe we're underestimating what the sense of smell can do for us, besides enhancing the pleasure of eating.

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How do you do the sniffing? Do you lift up the bowl or plate, or bow your head down, or do you put it on your fork and bring it up to your nose?

I had a roommate that would only sniff food that he was uncertain of, like whatever dish I was cooking, and he'd do it by bringing the fork up to his nose. That left a bad impression with me. I also hated that guy.

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I am the same way with baked goods.

I can also tell when dairy is about to go off; butter will begin to smell (to me at least) like Parmesan.

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