I love dropping into ABC Radio Melbourne to chat about food with Clare Bowditch and her lovely audience of talkback callers. This time it was to discuss food smells and memories.
Preparing for this topic was fascinating – I learnt so much.
For example, food smells are so powerful because of our brain anatomy. Our olfactory bulb travels close to the areas of the brain that are strongly associated with memory and emotion: the hippocampus and the amygdala. Visual and auditory stimuli don’t touch on the same areas. That’s why, perhaps, if you smell a cake, it’s more powerful than hearing the word ‘cake’.
New research suggests that the human nose can detect 1 trillion different odors – we have countless receptors just waiting to be activated by particular combinations of odours. I’ve always thought that dogs had a better sense of smell than humans but perhaps it’s just that they train their noses better and are happy to poke them into smelly places!
Amazingly, other bodily entities also have a sense of smell, or at least they operate as though they do. Notably, our kidneys can ‘smell’ fatty acids and they use the information to regulate blood pressure accordingly. Even more curiously, sperm ‘smell’ the environment around them and perhaps use it to sense which way to go. Our amazing gut is a topic of great discussion these days – I suppose if our gut can ‘taste’ parasites before initiating immune responses, we might as well accept that our kidneys can smell!
I also dipped into scent marketing, learning that Starbucks once created an aroma taskforce to fix a cheese sandwich which sold well but overwhelmed the aroma of coffee. And I learnt that there’s a whole industry around piping particular scents into businesses: if you smell coffee in a hotel lobby, fresh bread in a supermarket bakery, fresh muffins in a cafe or popcorn at the movies, you may be smelling piped scents designed to make you stay longer and spend more.
Listen in below – we had some great talkback callers for this very rich topic.