Post # 246 Popcorn Soup

April 28, 2014 at 1:50 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 246 Popcorn Soup

Most people don’t know this but 90% of your taste is in your nose.  The nose and sinuses have sensors that react to scents and smells.  Wiki has a very good, medium long article that explains it all really well.  When receptors are tripped in either the nose or the mouth, taste is activated in the brain.  Some of those receptors are pleasant and some are not so pleasant.  Some are down right nasty.

Ever notice when you have a cold and your nose is plugged up, nothing tastes good anymore?  All those things we usually enjoy just don’t have the same impact they normally do.  Only really strong flavors make it past the olfactory sensors to be picked and appreciated solely by the taste buds on the tongue.  Garlic and salt are two of these, which is why chicken soup always seems to taste good when we’re sick.

Ever been in a situation where something you find disgusting is another person’s passion?  Or vice versa?  Smell and taste are interpreted in the brain and are personal to each individual.  When I first moved to DC, I shared an apartment with to guys in the Navy.  They wanted me to do all the cooking so I asked what kind of things they liked to eat.  They mentioned salads so the first night I made a big ole Trash Can Salad, which is basically everything you can lay your hands on.  When we sat down to eat, I took a big bowlful, then a second one.  Neither of them touched it.  It was the same for the next two nights until the salad was gone.  When I questioned them about it later, they told me I put things in the salad they didn’t like.  It was the first time I’d ever met anyone who didn’t like tomatoes.  I was floored.  Neither of them did, so when I started eliminating things from the salad that they didn’t like, it turned into a bowl of shredded lettuce.

But that’s how personal taste and smell are.  In China one time, I was working with two teammates who didn’t like Chinese food.  I love it!  I was looking forward to eating it a lot while I was there, but that trip, I didn’t get any.  One day, we were leaving for lunch and walked through the break room where several of the local staff were heating up their lunches.  I wanted a bite of everything, wondering what it all was.  It all smelled so good and my mouth was watering.  When we got to the elevators, one of my coworkers turned to me and said, “That smelled disgusting!”  My mouth almost dropped to the floor.  But I ended up laughing as I told her how my mouth was watering.

Some smells are pretty nasty, and can trigger some violent reactions in people.  Nearly every critter on the planet will run away from the smell of a skunk.  And when it’s a fresh, powerful, and potent dose, I will too.  But after some time, odd as it sounds, I quite enjoy the scent of skunk.  It doesn’t turn my stomach or make my eyes water.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I don’t go searching out the smell, and I don’t really want to linger in the vicinity.  But it doesn’t turn my stomach, and I don’t run away screaming and heaving like so many other of the planet’s inhabitants.  Just one of those odd things about the olfactory receptors and how the brain interprets them.

Remember, I’m the one who does not like anything Ranch or Mayonnaise flavored, so whaddaya gonna do?

Some people have chronic problems with their sinuses.  The seem to be allergic to everything, constantly fighting infections.  One of my old Navy roommates was one of these people.  He was never without some nose spray hanging from his nostrils.  He loved his food, though, but couldn’t quite catch the subtleties of flavor I was creating.  Left to his own devices, he at tuna fish and minute rice all the time.  He did love popcorn.  He would make a big bowl of popcorn, dump half a cup of melted butter on it, then up end the salt shaker onto the resultant popcorn and butter soup.  The first time he made it, he offered it to me and our other roommate.  We both took a bite, and never at it again.

About a year or so after we became roommates, he decided to have his sinuses scraped at the advice of his doctor.  For a few days, he remained lethargic and woozy in his room, not interacting with anyone or anything.  Eventually, things got back to normal and he found that he could smell and taste things better than every before.  What the procedure does is goes into the sinus cavities and scrape away old, dead, and diseased mucus and remains that can’t make it out of the sinuses due to inflammation.  Sometimes, as in roommate’s case, polyps are removed and need to be tested for other reasons.  It’s painful, effective for a short time, but beneficial in the overall scheme of health.

So after a week or so, roommate is sitting in the living room and decides to make popcorn.  Humming to himself, he goes through the routine of popping corn, melting butter, and salting is as normal.  He plops back down on the couch with his eyes glued to the television.  He was probably watching some Disney show or movie.  He was addicted to them.  I watched as he put a handful of popcorn in his mouth.

His whole demeanor changed.  His mouth screwed up in disgust; his eyes looked puzzled as he stared down at the bowl; he throat convulsed as he tried to swallow what was in his mouth.  He took a long drink from his diet soda, and when his mouth was finally clear said, “BLECH!  That’s terrible!”  He was obviously confused.  He looked at me and asked, “Have I always made it like this?”

I nodded.  “Why do you think other roommate and I never ate any of it?”

With his new found sense of smell, his brain was able to process tastes better, and popcorn soup was no longer the delicacy it had been.


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