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Scent of the Symphony

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Scent of the Symphony

Part three of the Sensory Experience Series

Take note of the photograph above- when you look at this do you smell anything? I smelled orange peel and cinnamon right away the first time I saw it. Did it make you think of a particular season, or event in your memory? I thought of fall, and cozy nights by the fire.

Are there any foods you avoid or are drawn to because of their scent? Do any particular food smells bring you back to childhood? Chicken noodle soup perhaps? Or pot roast? It’s that last one for me. My mom used to make the best pot roast- it would melt in your mouth. And when I smell it, I’m 7 again.


The last sense I’d like to explore is our sense of smell. The sense most strongly linked to memory. I’d like to explore how smell can be used to connect to our food and provide an even stronger sense of satiety.


Part 3- SMELL


When I cook, as mentioned in the most recent installment in the series, I like to par things off in dishes as I prep ahead. I par off the spices, vegetables, anything that can be set aside really. This helps me to measure them ahead of time to make sure I get the portions right, and then when it’s time to cook, I can focus on enjoying the process without stopping to do the measuring and prepping.  It also allows for the enjoyment of the components of a meal.



Pull a few spices out of your spice cabinet. Make sure you ave some standard spices like pepper and sage, and then a few more exotic spices if you have them, like cumin, spice blends or exotic salts.

Smell them. Maybe set aside a small dish of coffee beans to smell in between to cleanse the palette ( this too might awaken a reaction-  alertness). What do you smell? Are there any that surprise you? Have you ever smelled these individually before to see how they contribute to a meal’s flavor? Have you ever added a spice to a dish that changed it and made it less appealing? I know I have, and you can’t take it back out. Smell it first, see if it makes sense to add it to your symphony of flavor.




If you ave pepper in a canister and a pepper grinder compare the two peppers. Is the ground pepper more aromatic? Do you smell any other spices in there? I have a grinder that also had coriander peppercorns and it’s really floral in a addition to the bite of the pepper. Try mustard and ground mustard if you have it. Do you smell any difference?

One of my favorite spice smells is coriander. Here are some of my smelling notes:

Coriander (ground): earthy and floral- smells like spring to me!


Garam Masala (seasoning mix): Smells like traditional Italian seasoning, chicken soup and orange peel

Whole Cloves: Surprisingly smells like anise (black licorice)

After you’ve smelled these spices, will you use them any differently? Do you feel any more or less inclined to use them in certain dishes? I know that after I took the time to smell the difference between sage and thyme I no longer mindlessly throw them both into all Italian dishes I make. This practice of smelling the foods and spices I put into my dishes changed the way I cook a bit. It made me more cognizant of each ingredient and how it changed the profile of the meal. If you respect and understand the ingredients, the finished product is more likely to be enjoyable. And do this with all things that go into a meal- produce, spices, condiments, herbs, etc. All of it- they’ve all got heir own ‘personalities’ to share.




Feel free to question ‘authority’! I almost never make a recipe the way it’s laid out. I am always changing the ingredients to suit my taste or the time of year. For example, in the fall I often substitute parsnips for carrots- or mix them in- to add a very warm, fall-like anise flavor to the soup or stew. And I play with spices a lot! I love to add lemon peel to something to liven it up or turmeric to a simple dish to give it a satisfying splash of bright orange and a little kick of flavor.

Get to know your spice cabinet, your herbs and your produce and once you’re acquainted- play! Be the artists. What’s the worst that could happen? You screw up and have to order pizza- and you learned something? That’s not that bad of a punishment! 


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