Play a game of hypotheticals with me. If you had to lose one of your five senses, or else be slapped across the face with a fish, which one would you choose? The wet fish probably, I’m no good at hypotheticals. But let’s say one of those senses had to go, or something very unpleasant that you really would not want to happen to you, would happen to you. Which one would you pick? Smell obviously! Sight, hearing or touch would be the main ones to hang onto, they have a bit more of a necessary vibe to them. Taste would be the next keeper, possibly not as vital as in days yonder now that we have use-by labels and Google to tell us that 2 week old prawns are consumed at your peril, but it does make fuelling our bodies so much more pleasurable.
So sayonara smell! What would we really lose? A lot actually. Sure, taking out the garbage and changing nappies became a whole lot more bearable, but our smell contributes so much to our experience of the world, almost subconsciously, that losing it would mute much of what we enjoy in life.
Your pointy/flat/knobbly/button sundials detect molecules from your surroundings and send that information to your brain, where it gets interpreted however your brain wishes. You can differentiate between thousands of different molecular structures, and an equal amount to a sommelier, q-grader or that person that stands at the bar saying ‘hmm yes, this tastes of the zest of Santorini lemons and a touch of pink Nepalese tea cake icing.” They just have the language to describe what’s happening in their noses. And a touch of the show-offsies.
It’s our sense of smell that gives the nuance, that razzle dazzle to the basic tastes our tongue detects. When drinking an Ethiopian pour over for example, your tongue will tell you “You brain. This sweet. And sour. Okay what you want from me?! Now swallow.” Whereas your sophisticated snout will pick up the molecules drifting up from your steaming cup and say “Good morning brain, there are so many wonderful things happening here. Do you remember that time you went to Steve’s Nonna’s house in the Greek Islands, and she had that lemon tree in the backyard? And do you also remember the sweets Yvette brought back from the Pokhara Markets? Well those scents combined are very similar to the ones I’m getting here. How delightful! Over to you, frontal lobe!”.
Frontal lobe: “Mmmm tasty”
Our language might be letting us down, but it’s nice to know our nose gives us the immersive experience anyway, enhancing our lives with all the flavour and memories and the smell of fresh roasted coffee. If it’s between a sense of smell and a fish in the face. I’m taking the fish.