Follow Your Nose

I have to admit, I have a thing for noses. Always have.Fresh apricots_sm

It’s one of the first features I notice when I meet someone for the first time. And I remember the summer as a kid when the bridge of my own nose got bigger and bonier.

If the eyes are the window to the soul, I think the nose must be the gateway to the brain. Because, well,  it is, actually.

The tiniest particles of aroma are traveling into your nose and up into your brain all the time, carrying information like what your co-worker is having for lunch and the quality of the milk in the fridge. Your sense of smell is an invaluable tool that you only notice and miss when you have a head cold so bad that even your favorite food is flavorless. Isn’t that the worst?

Working as a bartender gave me the opportunity to fine-tune my sense of taste to recognize the nuances of spirits and detect the balance of mixed drinks, much like a sommelier does for wine. And because the sense of taste depends mightily upon the sense of smell, what I really did was develop my nose. The two are inextricably linked.

cocktail_smBarb Stucky mentions in her book, Taste:

Scientists estimate that between 75 and 95 % of what we “taste” is actually smell.

Long before I got behind the bar, I had forced down too many flavorless, mealy, papery tomatoes.  These disappointments seemed to hail from almost any grocery store. But the tomatoes that my grandmother grew in her garden were a rich red and bursting with flavor. This simple discovery made me very passionate about flavor and was my first experiment in trusting my senses of sight, smell, touch and taste.

So, smell things. Form opinions. Experiment and experience. The more you know about your own preferences, the better choices you’ll make–and maybe next time you’ll get a better-tasting tomato.

And maybe you’ll also like this nifty primer on the sense of taste.