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  1. #1

    Default Smells from a cook's perspective

    I've spent some time now parusing through the thoughts people here have, and I must say my initial experience of the forum is "overwhelmingly interesting." The depth of experience that many of the members seem able to get from this endeavor is nothing short of impressive. It's one of those "smart enough to know that you know almost nothing" type of situations for me at the moment.

    But the one thing that has stood out as so ridiculously familiar to me is the similarities of the world of scents to the world of food. I am not a professional chef by any means, but I have worked in the restaurant business for several years, and have had the blessing of many of the people I associate with being moderately experienced with different aspects of the culinary arts.

    And that's where it gets so familiar. The vocabulary has all these connections. Talk of notes and balance, seasonal awareness, formal vs. casual, and then I find out this whole thing about spices, fruits, woodiness. My brain is exploding somewhere between wine tasting and gastronomy.

    But one of the deeper parallels I am drawing are seated around the idea that there is a powerful means to share something unique with others, to compare and contrast one's experience of something undefinable, and then defining it based on one's own personal experience. How one thing or another is never really wrong or right, as long as it's done with attention to the overall, and the way you can somehow relate to someone in a deep yet intangible way, just by hearing their personal take on something that we can never be sure is exactly the same for all of us.

    I really am amazed. If anything I say has made you think of something, please share it.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    Indeed, great point There are very close relations between taste and perfumes. Taste after all is based on smell as well, and many of the notes are the same. And people have more experience and knowledge of foods than perfumery materials, so naturally to describe perfumes one always tries to link to foods.

    It's hard to describe a scent to a person who has never experienced it - one must draw analogies and links to shared experiences. Some notorious perfume critics have used food analogies to great effect - randomly off the top of my head I can remember comments like "vietnamese beef", "a french food market exactly where the smell of ripe peaches mixes with that of floorwax", "an oyster you know you shouldn't eat with a drop of [a famous floral perfume]", "Belgian leffe", "coca cola brightness", and so on.

    cacio

  3. #3

    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    Each version of sensory connoisseurship has its own way of conveying impressions, often related to other senses. (Food, wines, fabrics, etc.)

    Fragrances can be call "sharp" or "smooth and round." Fragrances can also conjures colours, such as blue or red.

    I don't usually get food references when I think of perfumes.
    "No sweet perfume ever tortured me more than this." Desert Rose by Sting and Cheb Mami, Album 1999.

  4. #4
    hednic's Avatar
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    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    Very interesting thread. I find the sensory correlation that certain individuals are able to make between food and fragrance utterly fascinating, and admire it. However,personally as Primrose above, I don't make that association in my mind.

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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    Great discussion. For a decade, my primary hobby was single malt scotch. I would spend some of my quiet hours alone at night, nosing and tasting. I would take in the initial nosing, and experience the shifts and changes over time as it breathed, as I added the smallest amounts of water, as I changed the shape of my glass. I am just coming to grips with how my new hobby of perfume meets the same aesthetic, sensual needs.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    Quote Originally Posted by RichNTacoma View Post
    ...I am just coming to grips with how my new hobby of perfume meets the same aesthetic, sensual needs.

    I was big into wine (and spirits, too, but mainly wine) before I moved to Saudi Arabia. I subscribed to all the publications, frequently attended tastings and wine dinners, toured wineries on several continents, and maintained a small collection of several hundred bottles.

    My interest in fragrance began in the '80s but really took off after I moved to Saudi. In many ways this was a compensation for not having the wine. Saudi Arabia is quite uncivilized in many ways. We not only do not have alcohol, websites about it are blocked as well. Deprived of the sensual and aesthetic pleasures of drinking it and prevented from even reading and learning about it, perfume filled the void. It's not the same, but fulfills some of the same needs.

    Wines and spirits provide more pleasure, though. Most of the pleaure of perfumes are wearing them and smelling them. Wine provides olfactory pleasure also, but adds complex taste and physiological and psychological effects. The world of wines and spirits is also much broader and more accessible in general. So a love of perfumes isn't a complete substitute, but it has its own rewards.

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    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    l agree there are definitely similarities in the *discussion* of food, wine & perfumes. lf you watch a programme like Masterchef, for example, there is a striking correlation in the talk of notes, balance, sweetness/acidity, etc.

    l have noticed another correlation recently, too. Mr teardrop & l are currently converting from smoking cigarettes to using vaporisers. l have now discovered a gazillion online forums discussing & reviewing the various flavours & grades of "e-liquids" that are used in vaporisers. The similarity with the discussion of perfumes is striking, & fascinating!

    P.S. Welcome to basenotes, & thanks for an interesting & thoughtful post!
    "What is this secret connection between the soul, and sea, clouds and perfumes? The soul itself appears to be sea, cloud and perfume..." - from Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    Good observation.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    More thoughts you all have inspired on the concept. The idea of defining one sensual experience with another was not something I had considered in my first post. It does happen so naturally that it appears to be a mostly subconscious association for many, almost something that takes effort to do. But not as in creative effort, more like focusing on one's natural internal reaction enough to notice it. Subconscious synaestesia? How does one's own mental spectrum of sensual associations affect their preference? (rhetorical questions I assure you)

    The other aspect of this is the relation to memory, however vague that may be. Possibly even more intriguing if it is part of a memory that one can't fully recall. I wonder about whether one is seeking the memory of wonderful emotional times, or just seeking very distinct memories from individual senses. Or even one who simply seeks the associations for their own merits, an exploration of the things that spark your mind to remind you of other things. Like a pokemon game of notes which will never be completed. Sad if it were I suppose.

    This all while one still enjoys what is almost always perceived as a completely new experience.
    Last edited by The Ol' Factory; 9th January 2014 at 04:00 AM. Reason: More thoughts came to mind

  10. #10

    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    Quote Originally Posted by RichNTacoma View Post
    Great discussion. For a decade, my primary hobby was single malt scotch. I would spend some of my quiet hours alone at night, nosing and tasting. I would take in the initial nosing, and experience the shifts and changes over time as it breathed, as I added the smallest amounts of water, as I changed the shape of my glass. I am just coming to grips with how my new hobby of perfume meets the same aesthetic, sensual needs.
    Very well put - I was into single malt's too & I can relate to your feeling - until my ulcers made me kill that hobby & I had to cut it down completely. Parfums, although nice, do not really fill the void it left behind. I started looking into wines, but somehow, they never could come close to what scotch was for me.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    Quote Originally Posted by badarun View Post
    Very well put - I was into single malt's too & I can relate to your feeling - until my ulcers made me kill that hobby & I had to cut it down completely. Parfums, although nice, do not really fill the void it left behind. I started looking into wines, but somehow, they never could come close to what scotch was for me.

    When the urge for Ardbeg takes over, no amount of Oud will quell the need for peat.......

  12. #12

    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    Very good connection, indeed! I'm not a connoisseur in any sense, but I've noticed that I am very sensitive to the flavors and smells of food. I grew up drinking linden tea, chamomile, hibiscus and mint, which I often picked myself in my family's garden, and these are scents that I've learned to appreciate very early and taste.

    Today, I cook with a lot of fresh herbs, and probably because of my experience with herbs and perfumes, my own young child announced that she can "taste" with her nose. When we describe the flavors in food or in perfume, we use similar terms such as "pungent" or "zesty." A note in a tea can be "sweet" or "mellow." I love ginger, and I like it in perfume and in my favorite dishes.

    I don't think it is accidental that we can find so many flavored teas or coffees today such as Rose Marzipan--a great example, at least for me, of the combination of the two senses.
    Last edited by catnip_too; 10th January 2014 at 03:22 PM.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    And there is no surprise that Guerlain can find teas with notes that match their iconic perfumes such as Shalimar and Habit Rouge!

  14. #14

    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    I find the vocabulary to be very similar to that of music, but I can see clear parallels with food too. I wonder if there's a connection between our taste in food and our taste in perfume. For me, both tend to be extremely wide-ranging.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    Quote Originally Posted by noggs View Post
    I was big into wine (and spirits, too, but mainly wine) before I moved to Saudi Arabia. I subscribed to all the publications, frequently attended tastings and wine dinners, toured wineries on several continents, and maintained a small collection of several hundred bottles.

    My interest in fragrance began in the '80s but really took off after I moved to Saudi. In many ways this was a compensation for not having the wine. Saudi Arabia is quite uncivilized in many ways. We not only do not have alcohol, websites about it are blocked as well. Deprived of the sensual and aesthetic pleasures of drinking it and prevented from even reading and learning about it, perfume filled the void. It's not the same, but fulfills some of the same needs.

    Wines and spirits provide more pleasure, though. Most of the pleaure of perfumes are wearing them and smelling them. Wine provides olfactory pleasure also, but adds complex taste and physiological and psychological effects. The world of wines and spirits is also much broader and more accessible in general. So a love of perfumes isn't a complete substitute, but it has its own rewards.
    interesting insight!

  16. #16

    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    Quote Originally Posted by The Ol' Factory View Post

    But the one thing that has stood out as so ridiculously familiar to me is the similarities of the world of scents to the world of food.
    I've read somewhere that taste is mostly smell: our tongue is able to perceive 4 or 5 different flavours- sweet, bitter, salty, sour..- but what makes the difference is the smell that reaches the olfactory tract via mouth.
    When one can't smell- in case of severe rhinitis, for example, it once happened to me for a few days- food doesn't have a taste! You perceive the texture, the aforementioned basic flavours but you can't tell an apple from a potato or bread from pasta....

    In my experience, my love for fragrances intertwines often with my love for food- I love cooking and eating- and this is source of infinite discoveries and suggestions!

    Moreover, taste and smell have been historically considered less important, compared to sight or hearing, so all arts connected with those two lack a specific language and must rely on other vocabularies...
    "Your fragrance with a fume of iodine" L. Cohen

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    I too see some corollaries, but also have noted that this tendency seems to exist within hobbyists of many different areas. I think it may be that it's more the language of passion than of one particular interest. For myself, I've participated in several online forums with quite different sorts of topics. If I include my husbands topics, there are even more comparisons and what I see is about the passion of the human spirit being transposed onto a particular object. Each person leans in a particular direction/s but ultimately, I believe it is about passion and finding a way that you can express yours and share it with others.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    Another hobby of mine are headphones, and it's also challenging to describe sounds.

    Even though both smells and acoustics are intangible, we describe them using analogies from the physical world, like texture, body, dimensions, etc.

    Concepts like speed-congestion-separation, soundstage, imaging, timbre, tonality, resolution and detail may be really common but hard to understand without properly experience them comparing different gear.
    We want a 'Niche' forum.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    Quote Originally Posted by danieq View Post
    I think it may be that it's more the language of passion than of one particular interest.
    See I knew there was a part of this talk missing. There is emotion at play when we make these associations. They may have more to do with shaping our perception than anything else. I can't really say that I know exactly how that works, but I believe it has something to do with our experience. Which is the source of the passion in the first place. Again somehow.

    Thanks for bringing that up.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Smells from a cook's perspective

    Quote Originally Posted by The Ol' Factory View Post
    See I knew there was a part of this talk missing. There is emotion at play when we make these associations. They may have more to do with shaping our perception than anything else. I can't really say that I know exactly how that works, but I believe it has something to do with our experience. Which is the source of the passion in the first place. Again somehow.

    Thanks for bringing that up.
    Passion is.....my passion, if that makes sense. I've got a thing for wanting people to experience passion as it really brings a person to life. Perhaps it's my response to having lived with people who don't allow themselves to feel passionate about anything. I'm the anti-type to those folks and we drive each other truly nuts I am afraid.

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