Your nose needs an exercise plan. You think that I am joking? It’s not just for dogs – you can train your nose to smell better. Try it for a week and see if the world does not change for you.
Developing a better sense of smell and taste is reliant on your willingness to investigate (through aromas) the world around you. Slow down, smell the details and you can pick up all sorts of new (subtle) aromas. Aromas that you may have thought were as simple as fresh cut grass. Mowing the grass is an easy place to start. Break down individual grass aromas in a lawn. Onion grass is a giveaway aroma, but find some of the other varieties and pull them apart – smell them one at a time smashed into your fingers. Dandelion, crabgrass, chamomile and clover are each different. Wet steel, gasoline exhaust, hot motor oil and lubricating grease also have distinct smells that help build that fresh cut grass smell.
You can do this smelling workout anywhere or time. Smell your shoe soles or your keyboard. Is that too weird? Ok, move your exercise plan into the kitchen and smell each ingredient before you use it. Have you ever smelled raw egg after cracking it? Try it and then smell the same egg fried, hot, and about to be plated. Found some new aromas, right? Try the same with flour, olive oil and salt. Use caution when smelling the pepper.
This process of olfactory discovery is not unique as wine geeks love to talk about “terroir,” or the “sense of place,” that comes from smelling and tasting a particular wine. For instance, wines sourced from the volcanic soils of Italy’s Mt. Etna do have pronounced volcanic rock notes. There is a true sense of place in a well-crafted wine, but it takes time to align those sensations with an established wine lexicon library. For example how many wines have you tasted that are “Foxy” (a word used to describe musky animal smell in wine)?
When it comes to a true sense of place – cheese wins with more natural descriptors and connections. “It smells like cheese,” means different things to different people. For some, that’s a deep breath of heaven. For others it is a nasty nasal assault. Natural cheese aromas are complex. For starters, consider that milk contains elements of the plants “harvested” by a ruminant (sheep, goat, cow). Add in a myriad of other environmental factors, like natural caves, mold spores, weather impacts, wooden shelves and the natural development can take on a wild number of aromas.
Where it gets fascinating is when we take the time to smell and appreciate the individual aromas in one piece of natural cheese. Slow down and smell your cheese to give your olfactory senses a workout. Blurt out the words you associate with that. Beef Bouillon, Garlic, Used Gym Socks, wet stone – the process can be liberating and powerful. Just like the endorphins released after a workout you will feel better and have built a new way to describe what makes you smile. Cheese.