Decreasing Sensations to Enhance Flavor Detection

Ever since I realized that I’m hyposmic, I’ve been curious about how much sense of smell I have left and what I can do with it.

Could it be that I can train my nose to do more with less olfactory capability?

Indian food is known amongst the anosmic community to be a cuisine widely enjoyed, primarily because of the myriad of herbs and spices used in its cooking. I think of it this way: if you’ve lost your sense of smell (most of us think we’ve lost all of it, but the likely story is more of us have lost a portion of it than we think), eating Indian food that contains a lot of different herbs increases the likelihood that we’ll be able to detect some odor or flavor and garner more enjoyment from the meal.

My family hails from India, and I realize now how lucky I am to grow up eating Indian food as an anosmic. Eating Italian food usually brings me less enjoyment, probably because of the smaller amount of herbs and spices involved. My family loves spicy foods, and I grew up with a high tolerance for spice and capsaicin. Most of our meals were served hot.

However, as I try to figure out how much olfactory capability I have left, I realize that the level of spice I add to my food may be so high that even if I did have some sense of smell left, the sensation of the spice may be overpowering other flavors present in the food.

I think I may benefit from lowering the amount of spice and capsaicin present in my day-to-day meals, so that I can concentrate on figuring out whether I can detect or distinguish any flavors from what I’m eating.

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Manipulating texture to identify foods

My family loves experimenting with different masalas and meats, usually chicken. One dinner, it looked like two pieces of meat on my plate with different masalas (different colors). I figured it was chicken.

When I tried both, I really thought it was chicken, just with different masalas on them (I could tell one was less spicy than the other). Imagine my shock when I was told that no, one was chicken and one was fish! I felt sick. I never knew that meats tasted differently — as an anosmic, they all tasted the same to me.

Since then, I've been trying to avoid eating two foods cooked the same way at the same meal. The chicken and fish were both grilled and although they had different masalas which I could distinguish (though not identify), I couldn't name which meat was which. If I ever have two different meats on the same plate, I make sure they're made two different ways.

The general consensus among the anosmia community is to add color and texture to your food to add enjoyment. I disagree. I don't enjoy food more when I eat something crunchy in the outside and soft on the inside, or when the foods in my plates are different colors. It might look different and feel as though you're doing something new, but for me, those changes don't make up for the ultimate monotony in flavor.

Texture and color does, however, take your attention off the flavor. This is not a solution but a coping mechanism, and I'm reluctant to use it as the end-all solution in finding enjoyment in food.

What are your thoughts?

Snack Rec: Russell Stover Sea Salt Caramel Hearts

Saw this one at Walgreens while on a hunt for post-Valentine’s Day chocolate sales, bought a bunch (okay, 10), and never looked back. I wish I had bought 10 more.

What I loved about these hearts is that unlike most chocolates, this one was filled with a lot of salted caramel yet encased with a fairly thick shell of chocolate. Most caramel chocolates are smaller in size and not filled with as much caramel. The size of this chocolate was so large that it was truly a filling snack.

Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement. Anosmic Chef was not supported in any financial or non-financial manner to post about Russell Stover chocolates.

On Alcohol and Anosmia 

Happy Birthday to me! I’m 21, which in the U.S. means I can legally drink alcohol.

Exciting? Hardly. Wine tastes nothing but bitter. Vodka is the same. Tequila’s burn at the end overpowers the bitterness. Beer too tastes bitter. So much of the experience of alcohol — and why drinking wine or crafting beer is an art, and why so many people enjoy drinking alcohol — has to do with retronasal olfaction. To me, an anosmic, every type of alcohol tastes the same to me (though each has its distinct effect). Bitter. It’s like having medicine.

Sweet drinks like margaritas and sour ales are about the only drinks I can enjoy. I’m not sure that there’s a way around it or a way to better enjoy alcohol – perhaps these drinks are as good as it’s going to get for me.

Musings on Texture, Chewing, and Their Effect on Appetite

If you know me, you know that I’m a horribly slow eater. My parents used to set a timer for me to finish my dinner.

My appetite isn’t like olfies’, but I have a hard time gauging what my appetite is. I often take small portions for my meals, finish eating, and am hungry 20 minutes later. When I try taking larger portions, I’m too full. Although I’ve gotten into the habit of taking a small portion, finishing it, and then serving myself again, it’s hard for me to eye a serving bowl on the dinner table and and gauge how much is enough for me.
I also notice that foods that are spicy or foods which make me chew a lot get me feeling “full” faster (though I later realize I’m not). I don’t have to eat a lot until I get that feeling.

The question is, how can I maintain a healthy appetite regardless of what I’m eating?

Perhaps I need to break that question down – more to come…

Reflections on Anosmic Chef in the New Year

Anosmic Chef was first started when a group of anosmics came together on Facebook wanting to share recipes with each other. By not being able to identify, distinguish, or remember flavors — without flavor perception — food often feels like a chore. We thought exchanging recipes would not only give each other more ideas for meals but also allow us to give feedback on how much we were able to enjoy the recipe (and for our olfie caregivers, how much they were able to enjoy it as well!). One thought was that perhaps by trying different foods, we would know what flavors we could or couldn’t perceive on an individual level.
The idea is grandiose, but the execution is too general. So, although Anosmic Chef will happily post any submitted recipes, that will no longer be the main purpose of this site. As the needs of the community evolve, so will we — and so, we take the need to find more enjoyment in food a step beyond exchanging recipes, and to how we anosmics can improve our cooking style and the way we

As the needs of the community evolve, so will we — and so, we break down the general need to find more enjoyment in food a step beyond exchanging recipes, and to how we anosmics can improve our cooking style and the way we eat.

Tip: Chew Slowly & Mind Your Manners

As a student, I have the tendency to shove food down my throat and run off to my next class or my next assignment. I hardly stop to smell the roses (pun intended).
But, I’ve noticed that when I have a proper sit-down meal and chew one food at a time slowly, I find more enjoyment in my meal. Why?

Not only does ambience matter in how you enjoy a meal, but the manner in which you eat also matters. There are two ways we can smell food. One is through our nose when food hovers in front of our nose or passes past our nose and into our mouths. The other is when food is in your mouth and you swallow, the odor passes retronasally (up through the back of your nose). Retronasal olfaction is made stronger when we close our mouths while chewing – think of it as the odor in your mouth being more concentrated since you’ve closed your mouth while chewing (the odor has only one place to go: up the back of your nose).

In my case, garnering enjoyment from retronasal olfaction tells me that I haven’t lost all of my sense of smell. I have hyposmia (reduced sense of smell), not anosmia (total loss of sense of smell).

For those of you who have lost your sense of smell and aren’t sure whether you have partially or completely lost it, retronasal olfaction may give you an idea. If you detect an odor or smell something while chewing food slowly with your mouth closed, perhaps you haven’t lost all of your sense of smell.

Good luck.

Snack Rec: Barkthins

Crunchy, chocolatey, sweet, salty…yum! Plenty of variety. My favorites are the dark chocolate with sea salt Barkthins (sweet, salty, crunchy) and the seasonal dark chocolate peppermint pretzel (sweet, minty, crunchy, salty) Barkthins. If you want a couple of textures all in one snack, check this one out.

(P.S. – Of course, you can also easily make chocolate bark on your own.)

Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement. Anosmic Chef was not supported in any financial or non-financial manner to post about Barkthins.

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