A little while ago I mentioned that I have a very poor sense of smell. To which Barry asked:

Do you also have a diminished sense of taste, because those things seem to go hand in hand. Not to overuse a body-parts metaphor…

The truth is that I don’t know for sure, but I think I do. In all honesty, I didn’t realize that I had a poor sense of smell for the longest time. It’s difficult when you don’t have anything to compare it to.

I remember back in junior high when stink bombs were all the rage. Early on, I really didn’t know what they were. While everyone around me scattered in search for cleaner air, I would just stand there and sniff. I’d think to myself, “Hmmm, this smells like rotten eggs or something. Maybe rotten fruit. Definitely smells interesting. Very interesting.” I similarly don’t mind the smell of farts. I sort of have a vague, “This smells bad” feeling, but it’s more of an observation than a feeling. In some ways I like it just because it’s interesting and different.

But with smell, you are eventually notified that you are not smelling things that others are smelling. Clancy frequently asks if I can smell something and I say that I can’t. Something like that happens enough and you start to get the idea.

With taste, though, I don’t really have that. If I’m eating something, I can taste it. It may taste bland, but I know that I am eating something and therefore I think more inclined to be able to taste it. Sort of like I can sometimes smell things only after Clancy points them out to me.

At the same time, when it comes to food, I’m a big texture person. What something is made of is as important as how it tastes. I don’t like rice even though rice has little or no taste to it. I don’t like rice even if it’s mixed with something I do like that should theoretically engulf the non-taste of the rice. I just don’t like eating it. If I’m more fixated on texture than most people, that probably means that I don’t taste as much as they do.

The other thing is that I love, love, love spicy food and food that has any sort of really strong taste. I’ve commented before that the worse a food makes my breath, the more I probably like it. Garlic, onion, jalapeno, you name it. And the stronger the taste, the better. Whenever I eat Thai food I typically go for the spiciest stuff they’ve got or the next one down, which is usually higher than anyone else at the table that has eaten there is willing to go. Since I’m not a particularly tough person when it comes to discomfort, it’s likely that I am not as uncomfortable eating that stuff as the next person… which would bring me back to diminished tastebuds.

Category: Kitchen

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3 Responses to Sensory Deprivation

  1. Brandon Berg says:

    I don’t think the pain associated with spices actually has anything to do with sense of taste or smell. Capsaicin just irritates mucous membranes.

  2. Brandon Berg says:

    Also, one can become desensitized to the effects of capsaicin over time. I have a much higher tolerance for spice than I used to. It could be that you were drawn to spicy foods due to a weak sense of taste and then acquired tolerance through accustomization.

  3. trumwill says:

    It could be that you were drawn to spicy foods due to a weak sense of taste and then acquired tolerance through accustomization.

    That sounds reasonable. Alas, my stomach has built up no such tolerance. My mouth and my stomach need to sign a peace accord 🙂

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