A nose for these things...

A nose for these things...

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When I was a kid, before the country was converted to the metric system, milk was sold in gallon jugs.

My mother would bring a fresh one home and occasionally the *milk guzzler* in the household (me) would open a new jug, stop dead in my tracks and refuse to drink it.

I'd swear it was going sour and go without milk until a new jug was in the fridge.

My mother thought I was being ridiculous because it tasted fine to her ~ until she realized that each and ever jug of milk I refused *turned* sour within 3 days and it was poured down the drain.

I have always been the *milk canary* in our household because my sense of smell and taste really IS that sensitive.

Growing older I was told my palette would peak and then become less sensitive but....somewhere along the way I'd read about sommeliers and how their taste is at it's prime from their 40s through 50s. While I remained skeptical I am now forced to accept the fact that I'm in for a long, annoying decade.

If the badly designed/located drip pan under the fridge is getting funky I can smell it about THREE WEEKS before it starts to affect the family and I need to pull the unit out of it's spot, remove the back panel and start the long process of cleaning the thing with vinigar.

If my eldest spritzes a perfume on herself behind closed doors at the other end of the house, on another floor ~ I know in about 2 seconds.

The other night I was sitting on the couch watching tv with the husband and suddenly sat up, rigid and sniffing the air like a dog. Teh Bob asked me if I was okay and I nodded...but sat uneasily because I'd smelt something chemical and floral float by and the teenagers were both out. After a moment my brain classified it and at the next commercial I bolted upstairs to my sons' bedroom.

Opening his bedroom door I saw that he was asleep and on the floor in the middle of the room was a can of Febreeze....(I didn't buy it, the teens did)

Yesterday my eldest apologized as we wandered around the fabric store, for still reeking of the roasted garlic she'd indulged in THREE DAYS earlier. I could smell it coming off her body in WAVES when she walked by me and she said her boyfriend couldn't understand what I was talking about because he couldn't smell it at all.

Did I mention I can smell myself and avoid certain foods because it turns me off and I just can't get away from my own skin??

I was reminded of this when I walked by a tree in full bloom this morning at 6 a.m., and was hit by an overpowering cloying floral fragrance. It was strong but not nearly as bad as something that I smell when I walk past another house in the opposite direction ~ an odd smell that is like a whiff of ozone but could just be the undernote of some plant's blossom that I now find irriating. Assuming the source is natural. When it's not then I'm in trouble. Heavy duty cleaners in places like schools, hospitals and public swimming pools almost bring me to my knees. When my mouth feels as though I'm sucking on iron....it's never a good thing.

Artifical fragrances trigger headaches and my nose runs like a faucet was turned on full..the daughters have learned to not spritz till they leave the building and NEVER if they are being driven someplace by myself, because I HAVE forced them to open their windows all the way in the middle of the winter. The irony is that I burn several sticks of Japanese incense a day. It's simple enough to conclude that naturally occuring ingredients/scents are better for us than the chemical soup we insist on swimming in and the growing number of people with scent sensitivities is a reflection of that fact.

I have to chuckle a bit when I consider that I rank the smell of horse manure on a breeze across a pasture or in a barn as much more pleasing than most any perfume on the market ~ I can smell the hay in it which makes it very sweet compared to that of omnivores like pigs and chickens, with their confined lifestyles and highly concentrated grain and additive laden food sources. When most people wrinkle their noses I breath deep and smile.

It's no wonder that the Japanese find Westerners rancid. We eat like pigs.

Yesterday ~ as I winced at my eldest's sour garlic scent, I was interested in the fact that she could no longer smell her stinky rose reek, but she'd be able to do so for the first two days. I wondered if she's on the same track as myself. Will her sense of smell continue to improve as she ages?

Later in the day the other teen was complaining about the BURN of salt in her organic Bran Flakes. The cereal was already low in salt but it was still too much for her. I picked up two types of whole grain cereal for her that contained NO added sodium and she is finally satisfied. I have to mention that while I cook with small amounts of salt, there is never a salt shaker on my table.

....and for breakfast I have freshly steamed rice ~ plain, every morning. Yes I do like the flavour of rice as a matter of fact. So does my son.

Speaking of which, at the same time I was purchasing the cereal, I picked up some fresh salmon and told the Japanese fish monger that I wanted it with the skin on since my son loves the grey layer (of fat) between the skin and the flesh. She stared at me in surprise before exclaiming that he has a very good sense of taste ~ JUST like the Japanese. *0__0!!!

....sorry kids. Your genetics are showing.
  • That is one sensitive sense of smell! I usually smell things before either the Hubby or Boy, but I'd read that a woman's sense of smell is better than a man's (which might explain their fascination with farting).

    I wear only a few perfumes. The Poison line by Dior (except for the Tender Poison) and Addict by Dior, Vanilla Musk by god knows who and a bunch of the essential oil scents by BPAL. I have skin sensitivities so the majority of perfumes will make me break out in hives/rashes and some give me the added bonus of an asthma attack. Not fun.

    Do the essential oil scents bother you as well since you say you can stand/enjoy the scent of incense? Since most of the essential oils are concocted from natural sources, is it the same nose-wrinkling reaction as say... a commercial perfume or is it kinder to you?
    • I've read that too, about women being more sensitive in the nose and of course there are also the hormonal fuctuations that drive us buggy on a monthy schedule.

      I know my sense of taste (and smell probably, as they go hand and hand) monthly. When it's THAT time of the month beer tastes bitter and nasty but in the middle of the cycle it's like drinking something sweet and soothing...*0__o??

      I used to wear perfume and like you , careful of the brands, but as I grew older it's become very difficult for me to do that because they would go rancid on my skin and surprise, like you I also have skin sensitivities. I can basically only use PEARS soap on my body and ivory soap on my skin face ...although for decades it was only Cetaphil ~ my skin changed again about a year go.

      After that...whatever...change, the only thing I can use on my face as a moisturizer is sweet almond oil. Luckily I can use various body creams if they are shea butter or better avocado. Coconut oil just sits on my skin and stares at me like....*what?*

      I like some essential oils. The japanese insense burn very clean...I don't get the chemical hit as I do from any other types, but then it comes down to the scent and there are some that I can't stand simply because the smell and I don't get along. I find that with the essential oils...comes down to a matter of taste and that is just such a nice relief to have to fight the battle on one front :)

      I've never encountered BPAL so you'll have to educate me when we meet. Others on my flist use the product but I'm so many years removed from wearing scent for scent that I just looked at the site and moved on. Mind you...I can smell the touch of inscense on myself 6 hours after I'd burned it so anything stronger might be a problem >D

      • BPAL is very... hardy. I don't use a lot of it (and you're not supposed to anyway) and I can generally still smell it as much as 8 hours later depending on the one I use. It's not a strong scent that late in the day, but I sometimes get whiffs of it and if I bring my wrist to my nose, I can smell it.

        I favour the orientals scent wise. I VERY rarely do the florals or citrus blends. I don't like the way they smell. I also like the musk based ones.

        I got 6 imps from BPAL. Imps are TINY (like about 5ml) and absolutely great for testing out scents. My favourites are:

        Serpent's Kiss: Seething with passion, yet utterly cold-blooded. Dragon's blood, vetivert and spice.
        Incubus:Spectral white musk and the heart-stopping chill of sheared mint, fanned by caramel-touched body heat, and the diabolical sensuality of black musk, nicotiana, and sage.

        Given the opportunity, I'd buy a bottle of either of the two without question. I got the imps around mid-January and I generally wear one of them every day. I have easily half of imps from each sample left.
  • I'm not sure that having a strong sense of smell is a good thing^^ I have asthma, one of many allergies, and I suffer on a daily basis as at my posh work place most employees try to maintain an image of sophistication... apparently by drowning themselves in perfume >_< An elevator free of people is my idea of heaven.

    Did I mention I can smell myself and avoid certain foods because it turns me off and I just can't get away from my own skin??

    Agreed. And I get the same reaction with my natural incense sticks.

    What do you do at special gatherings/occasions? Don't the scents of all those people, natural and artificial, drive you crazy?
    • Having a strong sense of smell has it's upsides but it also is problematic when travelling. Some places I've been have overwhelmed me because I've been assaulted on too many fronts by the smells ontop of the usual culture shock, and I'm pretty open minded and easy going.

      Ironically..this reminds me of Japan. They are so *scent* sensitive that it's ridiculously easy for me to travel there as they are hyper about keeping things neutral and clean. Going to Tsjkiji (I've been there 3 times now) is unreal, because you are surrounded by tons of raw fish and no fishy smell. Brine yes...fish nope.

      OMG ~ l think I'd die if I had to spend time in a place where people wear so much scent it travels beside them like a seperate entitiy. People don't seem to GET it and how much pain it causes. I should NOT be able to taste your perfume 15 mintues after you have left the building!!! In NA it's becoming a problem and certain places are actually banning strong scents because of the growing problem with scent sensitivies.

      What do I do? I avoid crowds as much as possible....but am lucky I live in a neighbourhood where so many women are granola save the earth types and are very concicous of allergies because many of their kids have them so they can't wear perfume either.

      Because smoking is on the wane here people sense of smell has returned and they don't have to bathe in the stuff anymore.. The worse problem is young people who can only afford the latest cheap crap and then pour it on because they don't know better XD...eventually my kids will remember that scent X = Harpy Mother and apply it when they leave the building :)
      • Fish market that doesn't smell of fish? *blink, blink* I have a hard time believing it.

        a place where people wear so much scent it travels beside them like a seperate entitiy

        Yes, that's exactly it! It trails like a cloud behind them. I can smell his/her perfume from 5 metres away >_<

        so many women are granola save the earth types

        That sounds funny^_^
  • *raises hand* I'm practically a bloodhound nowadays. I tend to eat plain rice a lot and have peeps stare at me. But plain rice is very delicious and yummy.

    Oh yeah, I haet smokers cuz I can smell them a mile away. 6___6; It literally does give me a headache smelling that icky tobacco and ick.

    But bwah, amazing to find out my sense of smell might height. And be amazing, I mean "OH CARP."

    Hmmm, now I want some salmon...
    • But plain rice is very delicious and yummy.

      I think people are so used to dumping condiments on everything without thinking that their palettes have been descensitized to subtle flavours. The more you flavour something with salt, sugar or spice, the more you need to get the same satisfying hit on the tastebuds. A pinch enhances flavour...more than that sets you up for trouble.

      I don't use salad dressing because I don't think raw vegetables and such need it...if I was making a particular salad like a Ceasar salad, then I'd make the dressing myself and cobble the entire thing together and enjoy ~ but I hate the way the pour white glop onto lettuce in restaurants so that it's drowning in the stuff. I generally judge an establishment on their Ceasar ~ and most do it very badly.

      Smokers sense of taste and smell is pretty well dead ...although it can come back (my grandfather regained his in three years, after quiting a 50 year habit)....so they don't understand why people who don't smoke have runny noses and watery eyes around their lovely little habit.

      I used to have a sign in my house that said something like this:

      After a long day you like to enjoy a cigarette to relax and unwind. Smoking gives you pleasure. The result of your pleasure is smoke which in turn clings to my hair and clothes.

      I too like to unwind at the end of a long day. I prefer to drink beer. Drinking beer gives me pleasure. The result of my pleasure is urine.

      SO...if you don't mine me pissing on your hair and clothing, then I won't mind you smoking in my home.

      *^___^* people got the point and always went outside for their ciggies. But thankfully 99% of the people I know now don't smoke at all anymore...becasue like you I can smell it miles away. I can smell it on used books I buy which is not uncommon but just goes to show how long it lingers.

      I wonder if people know that when they return an item of clothing we've left behind at their home, and that they have kindly washed and folded before bringing it back to us, goes immediately into the wash because it reeks of smoke.

      Until smoking was banned in bars here, my husband knew he had to strip when he came home, dump his clothes in the laundryroom and shower before he was allowed into bed. The smoke would cling to his pillow for days if he didn't...


      As for myself....I'd get sinus infections if forced to spend more than a few minutes in a smoking environment. I have no patience for smokers who bitch to me about their rights to light up. It impacts my health in such a big way...and I'm not even asmatic! My entire family smoked until I left for uni and when I left they all up and stopped (which is great) but it went a long way to explain why I was so sickly for the first 20 year with endless colds without end and wretched allergies.

      I remember the first time I tried MJ at uni...with my lungs fresh from a smokers house but NEVER having smoked myself I was able to draw it in deeply, hold it, blow smoke out my nose. Um....WTF? nary a cough or hiccup.!!?!?!?

      Didn't think much of the substance and probably only tried it a few more times after that before getting bored, but I WAS impressed with what I learned....that yes...that is what second hand smoke does to a person. My lungs were conditioned to accept the chemical soup...even without a filter. GAH!

  • Interesting. That seems like it would impact your life very much, having such a refined and sensitive sense of smell. I'm not too sure I would enjoy it, to be honest. My sense of smell is quite average. I definitely can not smell perfume from the 2nd floor when I'm on the 1st floor.

    But this also brings up interesting questions. Do you use/wear antiperspirant and/or deodorant? (I really hope I'm not being rude.) Most deodorants have chemicals as well as sharp scents, because their whole purpose is to mask the body scent. Antiperspirants are also strong chemicals. Most commercial brands combine the two into one product.

    Also, what about lotions or soaps? Most lotions are scented, but you can also find unscented... is your skin sensitive too? I know several people who are sensitive to scents because their skin reacts to them badly.

    And on a tangent: I'd probably really like to eat a few meals at your house, just to see what kind of food your family eats. (I am so going to visit tam one day, just so she and Mama-san can spoil me rotten with fabulous authentic Japanese food.) I'm American, I grew up with American foods... but I love learning about new cultures and new cuisines. Just for example, you mentioned salmon. We don't cook fish at all in our house. Shrimp, yes. Fish, no. Because... Mom really doesn't like deep fried foods (me either, it makes me feel heavy and weird afterward) and that's the only way we really know how to cook fish. But I definitely agree with the salt issue. When I was growing up, we never had a salt or pepper shaker on the table... so I just never thought to put any salt or pepper on my food after it gets to the table. Then in restaurants, I see people buying a huge plate with say... a burger and fries, then dumping half the salt shaker on the fries. They're french fries!! They already have massive amounts of salt on them! *shakes head*

    Uh... ending tangent now. XD I just tend to ramble on sometimes.
    • The answer is that yes, I do wear deodorant/ antipersperirant but I'm picky and can't just wear any floral thing. I tend to use just plain, subtle baby power scented ones...

      For years I couldn't use soap on my face at all. I'm one of those that reacts badly....instead I used cetaphil but then my skin started to change (hormones/age) and I can use ivory again but only in the morning and before bed. On my body I use PEARS (an glycerin soap) that is pretty well the only thing that doesn't make me try to scratch my way out of my skin when I step out of the shower.

      The ingredients of Pears is : glycerin, natural oils, rosemary, cedar and thyme.

      As for food ~ we are so ecclectic in this household. My mother was Finnish and my father Estonian. Both came to Canada as kids. My husband was born in Yugoslavia but raised here when his family emigrated in the 60s (he was 3). My cooking is all over the map as my daughers and I are vegepreferians (I don't eat much meat because it doesn't like me) but the boys like their MEAT!

      Salmon is one thing we can agree on ~ well most fish but salmon is stupidly simple to cook if you can get it. Put in on a grill pan, skin side down in the oven and broil till the top and edges are browning. The fish is mild but has a wonderful fat to it so that it doesn't dry out.

      I severely limit my ingestion of fried foods as they react badly with my stomach (same with meat) but fish doesn't have to be fried. In fact that grill pan is great as I do bacon on it too and the fat runs down into the pan below. The other night we wrapped bacon around tofu and brushed them with oyster sauce and broiled them till brown and hmmm...I will have some of that meat and take my chances on the pain becuase it's just so good.

      Salt, sugar ...so many of these flavorings seem to be used automatically. I used to get offended when my brother-in-law would put ketchup on my food without tasting it first....that dumbfounded me. He's much better now and I realize it was just a matter of habit and breaking it. Palattes can be retrained too...which is what is happening to my daughter in her quest for salt free cereal.

      Sometimes I will use salad dressing or eat sauce on something and I do enjoy it if I can control the amount of flavour on the item. I keep seeing commercials for pizza dipping sauce and am stunned at the concept. I make my own pizza as I did tonight and adding dipping sauce to it would be OVER kill!

      And before you ask:

      Whole wheat ~ one half cheddar and tomato paste (for the son) & one half ~tomato paste/ red peppers/ vadalia onion/ zucchini/ goat feta and cheddar (for the eldest)

      2nd pizza ~ pesto /vadalia onions, mushrooms, zucchini, goat feta and cheddar (for the rest of us)

      I just realized I've snuck a second night of vegetarian food by on the husband...mwahahahaha. Last night it was tofu and vege stir fry....good thing we are off to a bbq tomorrow so he doesn't start to complain >D
      Ramble away :)
      • You're just as bad as tam is, teasing with food recipes and such. *grin* She likes to try to tempt me out to her place by posting all these really cool food-type posts. *laugh*

        Did you ever go to cooking school? Or do those recipes and different styles just come from your varied family backgrounds? And those pizzas sound soooo good (well, except for the goat feta because I've never tried goat cheese before so I couldn't tell if I would like it or not). Do you like olives (any variety)? *laugh* It's usually not a pizza at our house unless it has mushrooms and olives in some form on it. ^___^

        I might actually try to cook some salmon next weekend... do you add any kind of seasoning to it while it's cooking? Or is it flavorful without the added spices?
  • Random stranger popping in

    I just stumbled across your post and had to comment because I have the same 'problem. I'm also female, and my mother has the exact same sort of sensitivity. We both tend to favor asian foods as most American foods make us ill. I can taste the difference between iodized and sea salt, smell something and list the ingredients used, and tell what is in someone's garden from blocks away. I too like the taste of plain rice and salmon fat(I can also tell whether a fish is from the sea, rivers, or fisheries in origin by taste), but then I'm Alaskan so that's probably to be expected. :P
    I natural essential oils in a jojoba oil base as perfume as the commercial scents all reek of alcohol to me. Commercial cleaners make me ill, I use white vinegar for everything. The list goes on honestly.

    Oh, I can also tell a dedicated human carnivore by scent, same with people who consume a lot of dairy as can my mother. It seems like there really might be something to the female sense of smell being stronger.
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