Food

Taste and smell are inseparable: without smell, there’s no taste.

Our taste buds allow us to detect only 5 tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, glutamate or umami. For its part, the sense of smell refines the signals transmitted to the brain, which leads the olfactory system to perceive thousands of different odours. It’s an infinite world of sensations!

Videos

Testimonials

  • Why Madagascar pepper smells like vanilla
    The noble Madagascar pepper comes from plants that are 25 years old. Monsieur Jean, he is a man of incredible wisdom, this man, and on top of that he makes the noble Madagascar pepper, the only pepper that should actually have been a white pepper. Let me explain. Pepper is a bit like gooseberries, it’s green, the cluster is green. Then the bottom turns yellow, and even red but the top stays green. And when you pick a pepper that is fully ripened, you can rub it a little and put it in water to remove its skin and make white pepper. That's for pepper that has ripened fully. In general, black pepper is green peppers that have stayed green, so have not fully ripened. He, because he also makes vanilla, he takes the ripe pepper and scalds it for 15 or 20 seconds, and then he removes it, and the skin, which theoretically comes off, stays on, because it has been scalded. So in fact, it is black pepper, but pepper that is fully ripe.

    Olivier Roellinger, chef Excerpt from an interview that took place during the filming of “The Empire of Scents”
  • The relaxing properties of vanilla according to Olivier Roellinger
    (...) You can’t sleep. There you are, tossing and turning in bed. You get up, you heat a bit of milk, we take a vanilla pod, we'll take half, that’s enough - and if it's good quality vanilla, maybe not even a quarter - open it, scratch it, see it on the tip of the knife. Drop it into the milk. Let it steep for 10 minutes, and don’t take your eyes off the milk! Because all the black dots are already working at flavouring the milk, they’re moving around in your milk. They’re constantly moving. So at the same time it relaxes you. It's like counting sheep, it relaxes you. And after 10 minutes, when the milk is enriched with this added maternal dimension, drink it in three gulps. And you'll sleep like a baby.

    Olivier Roellinger, chef Excerpt from an interview that took place during the filming of “The Empire of Scents”

Photos

  • Filming at Cancale, France, where Olivier Roellinger lives

    Nicolas Fransolet

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  • Filming at Tisslit, a Moroccan village near Taliouine
    Saffran flowers

    Nicolas Fransolet

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  • Filming at Tisslit, a Moroccan village near Taliouine

    Nicolas Fransolet

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  • Filming at Cancale, France, where Olivier Roellinger lives

    Nicolas Fransolet

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  • Filming at Alba, Italy in search of truffles

    Nicolas Fransolet

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Experiences

  • Cake

    • Prepare a box with chocolate chip cake, lemon slices, a banana, blue cheese and Camembert.

    • Blindfold your eyes. Each time you take a bite of the cake, ask a friend to choose one of the four foods and have you smell it without telling you what it is.

    • Note your impressions. The different aromas should change your perception of each bite of cake.

  • Try heightening the olfactory mood during a dinner with friends.

    • Flavour some water with ginger, lemon, basil, or whatever else best complements your dish. If you are serving salmon, for instance, try adding coriander or lemon to the water.

    • Spray your plates with the flavoured water before putting the food on them, and again immediately after.

    • Fill a shallow dish with the flavoured water and place it under the serving dish. Soak a placemat in the flavoured water and place it under the dish.

Merchandising

  • Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way

    Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way

    Molly Birnbaum

    While training to be a chef, Molly Birnbaum lost her sense of smell due to an accident, shattering her world and her aspirations. Here she takes us through her quest for the rediscovery of this lost sense, touching on fragrances that evoke memories, such as cinnamon, apple pie, or lavender.

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  • The Psychology of Taste

    The Psychology of Taste

    Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

    First published in 1825, this portrait of bourgeois and aristocratic society is at times sarcastic and cynical. This work conveys the joys of the table as the basis of society and of its codes both social and political. Through his musings, the author explains in a scientific manner the role of each of the senses and the organs responsible for digestion.

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  • The French Cook

    The French Cook

    François Pierre La Varenne

    Published in 1651, this is the first book to have codified the foundations of French cooking. It reflects the culinary revolution that occurred as cooking moved away from peasant cooking, towards classic French cuisine. The English translation is in the vernacular of its time...

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  • L’aile ou la Cuisse, 1976

    L’aile ou la Cuisse, 1976

    Claude Zidi

    A comedy featuring Louis de Funès and Coluche. Louis de Funès plays the role of a restaurant guide editor who loses his ability to taste and so decides to train his son, played by Coluche, who has little interest in gastronomy.

  • A History of Food

    A History of Food

    Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat

    This book tells you all you need to know about the natural history of foodstuffs, their origin, their discovery and the evolution of our dietary habits, as well as the moral history of food, eating behaviours, customs, rituals and food symbolism. An essential book on cuisine and the social history of eating.

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  • Sideways

    Sideways

    Miles, a wine lover, offers his friend Jack, who is indifferent to wine, a tour through the California vineyards as a wedding gift. The pair goes from tasting to tasting, making some charming acquaintances along the way. Adapted for the screen by Alexander Payne and starring Paul Giamatti, Sideways is a film that will stimulate your palate!

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The Olfactory System or Retro-olfaction

Taste and smell are both chemical senses; taste and olfactory sensations are provoked by the stimulation of certain cells in the nervous system, by specific molecules. Discover their pathway to your brain!

  1. 1

    Directly via the nasal passage: The odorant molecules suspended in the air enter the nose, arriving in the nasal cavity and connecting with the olfactory bulb.

  2. 2

    Retro-nasal stimulation: by breathing in through the mouth or by retro-olfaction, which means that volatile molecules liberated during mastication and odorant molecules are transmitted by the internal nares in the rear throat, continuing all the way to the nasal cavity and olfactory bulb.

  3. 3

    At the base of the bulb, located in the superior nasal concha, the odorant molecules become soluble upon contact with the olfactory mucosa (or epithelium), and consequently come into contact with the olfactory receptive cells.

  4. 4

    The olfactory neurons react to odorant molecules, sending an electric type signal all the way to the cortical area of the brain (the primary olfactory cortex) and towards the hypothalamus, stirring emotions or behavioural reactions notably linked to memories.

Nose vocabulary

  • While very little known is known about them, taste and smell disorders can have a significant impact on our daily lives. In her book, The scent of desire, Rachel Herz explains how the loss, or even partial loss, of these senses can lead to depression. Taste and smell disorders are closely linked, because people who lose their sense of smell often have the impression that they can no longer taste anything.

      • Quantitative dysfunction: Diminished or enhanced senses

      • Ageusia

        The loss of taste functions of the tongue, particularly the inability to detect sweetness, sourness, bitterness, or saltiness (Wikipedia).

      • Anosmia

        The inability to perceive odour or a lack of functioning olfaction—the loss of the sense of smell (Wikipedia).

      • Hyperosmia

        An increased olfactory acuity (heightened sense of smell) (Wikipedia).

      • Hypogeusia

        A reduced ability to taste things (to taste sweet, sour, bitter, or salty substances) (Wikipedia).

      • Hyposmia

        A reduced ability to smell and to detect odors (Wikipedia).

      • Qualitative dysfunction: distortion of our perception of smells

      • Cacosmia

        An unpleasant perception of an odorant due to nasosinusal or pharyngeal infection (Wikipedia).

      • Dysgeusia

        Distortion of the sense of taste (Wikipedia).

      • Olfactory hallucination (or phantosmia)

        The perception of a smell in the complete absence of any physical odour (Wikipeida).

      • Parosmia

        Olfactive dysfunction that is characterized by the inability of the brain to properly identify an odour’s “natural” smell (Wikipedia).

      • Phantosmia

        Olfactory hallucination lasting longer than a few seconds.

  • General glossary

      • Ageusia

        The loss of taste functions of the tongue, particularly the inability to detect sweetness, sourness, bitterness, or saltiness (Wikipedia)

      • Anosmia

        The inability to perceive odour or a lack of functioning olfaction—the loss of the sense of smell (Wikipedia)

      • Aromacology

        The science that studies the influence of fragrance on mood and behaviour

      • Bouquet

        The characteristic scent of a wine or perfume

      • Dysgeusia

        Distortion of the sense of taste (Wikipedia)

      • Enfleurage

        A specific process that extracts the fragrance of the flowers in contact with a fatty substance. Both sides of a glass plate fixed in a wooden frame are smeared with an animal fatty content and then covered with flowers. The spent flowers are replaced until the fat is saturated with fragrance. The floral essence is separated from the fatty substance by means of a solvant.

      • Fragrance

        A pleasant, sweet smell

      • Hypogeusia

        A reduced ability to taste things (to taste sweet, sour, bitter, or salty substances) (Wikipedia)

      • Hypothalamus

        A section of the brain responsible for the production of many of the body’s essential hormones… The hormones from the hypothalamus govern physiologic functions such as temperature regulation, thirst, hunger, sleep, mood, sex drive, and the release of other hormones within the body. (Healthline) It is particularly the centre of the emotions; smell is the only sense that is in direct contact with the hypothalamus.

      • Odour

        A quality of something that stimulates the olfactory organ (Merriam Webster Dictionary) Both “smell” and “odour” imply a more natural, raw emanation than "perfume", for instance.

      • Olfactometry

        The testing and measurement of the sensitivity of the sense of smell (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

      • Olfactory apparatus or olfactory system

        The whole system that is needed to have a sense of smell

      • Olfactory hallucination (or phantosmia)

        The perception of a smell in the complete absence of any physical odour (Wikipeida)

      • Parosmia

        Olfactive dysfunction that is characterized by the inability of the brain to properly identify an odour’s “natural” smell (Wikipedia)

      • Phantosmia

        Olfactory hallucination lasting longer than a few seconds

      • Reek

        A foul smell

      • Scent

        A distinctive smell, especially one that is pleasant

      • Stench

        A strong and very unpleasant smell

      • Androstenone

        A derivative of testosterone, this hormone is present in the sweat and urine of male mammals and corresponds to a sexual signal. However, this link has not been proven for humans. This hormone is distinctive as it triggers very different chemical reactions depending on the gene structure of the person smelling it.

      • Aroma

        A distinctive, typically pleasant smell Usually applied to edible substances, or more precisely to retro-olfaction, meaning that they can be sensed by normal olfaction (through the nose) or by retro-olfaction (through the mouth, at the back of the palate). An aroma is in principle volatile. So if a foodstuff has no volatile molecules, it won’t have any aroma.

      • Aromatic

        Having a pleasant and distinctive smell (Oxford Dictionaries)

      • Cacosmia

        An unpleasant perception of an odorant due to nasosinusal or pharyngeal infection (Wikipedia)

      • Effluvium

        An unpleasant or harmful odour or discharge (Oxford Dictionaries)

      • Essential oil

        A concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. An oil is "essential" in the sense that it contains the "essence” of the plant's fragrance—the characteristic fragrance of the plant from which it is derived. (Wikipedia) Previously mainly use in the perfume industry, essential oils are now more often used in the cosmetics and aroma industries.

      • Hyperosmia

        An increased olfactory acuity (heightened sense of smell) (Wikipedia)

      • Hyposmia

        A reduced ability to smell and to detect odors (Wikipedia)

      • Mephitis

        A foul smelling or poisonous stench. (Oxford Dictionaries) Mephitis was the Roman goddess of noxious vapours.

      • Olfaction

        The action or capacity of smelling; the sense of smell (Oxford Dictionaries)

      • Olfactory

        Relating to the sense of smell (Oxford Dictionaries)

      • Olfactory bulb

        A neural structure of the vertebrate forebrain involved in olfaction, or the sense of smell (Wikipedia)

      • Olfactory mucous membrane or olfactory epithelium

        A specialized tissue inside the nasal cavity that is involved in smell. (Wikipedia) )

      • Perfume

        A pleasant smell. Implies a composition, a creation, a blend of smells.

      • Phéromone ou phérormone ou phéro-hormone Pheromone

        A chemical substance produced and released into the environment by an animal, especially a mammal or an insect, affecting the behaviour or physiology of others of its species (Oxford Dictionaries)

      • Retro-olfaction

        A term primarily used in the art of tasting: Action in which air is expelled through the nose during tasting in order to better appreciate certain aromas

      • Smell

        A quality in something that is perceived by the faculty of smell; an odour or scent

      • Stink

        A strong, unpleasant smell; a stench

What does smell mean to you?

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