An aspiring chef loses her sense of smell
August 31st, 2011
09:15 AM ET
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Molly Birnbaum is the author of "Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way". She was awarded the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship for Arts and Culture from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2008 and blogs at My Madeleine.

I had never really tried to walk with crutches before, let alone cook while resting on them. But one morning in late October 2005, two months after the car accident that left me with a broken pelvis, fractured skull, and a busted knee, I entered the kitchen one wood-clipped step at a time.

I decided to bake because baking seemed to rely on measurement rather than improvisation, and butter cookies seemed a simple enough choice. I decided to add chocolate, to see if I could taste it. And a pinch of cayenne because at least that I knew I’d be able to feel. Before the accident, I had been training to be a chef and was only months away from my starting date at the Culinary Institute of America, but the kitchen felt strange and unfamiliar in that first crutch-bound day. I didn’t know how to operate without my sense of smell.

You see, one morning in late August I went for a jog near my home in Boston and was hit by a car. The rickety four-door Honda had sped up through a light that had just turned from red to green. I don’t remember that morning, that afternoon, or, really, the next few weeks. But when the police officer arrived at the scene, I lay conscious but unmoving on the pavement by the side of the road. The ligaments in my left knee were torn and bruises had already begun to blossom on the side of my face and neck. My pelvis was fractured in two places, and my skull in one. I wouldn’t realize the most devastating of injuries, however, for weeks: I had lost my sense of smell.

I was in love with cooking, eating, and feeding my family and friends, but without a sense of smell, I could no longer perceive flavor. I had the temperature and texture of the food in my mouth. I could see my meal on my plate; I could hear the pork chop sizzling on the stove; I could taste the salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami of each bite on my taste buds. But nothing more. All of the detail, the spices and herbs, the hint of lemon and whoosh of vanilla on the exhale: gone.

I would later learn that my olfactory neurons, which run from the nose to the brain, had been severed in the trauma of the accident. My brain had bounced within my skull when I struck the car’s windshield with the back of my head, sheering the neurons on impact. The molecules of scent radiating off of fresh-baked bread and sautéed garlic could enter my nose, but there were no longer any working channels to send their messages to my brain.

For the first month of my recovery, when my bones healed but my nose stayed blank and mute, I wondered what I could do if I couldn’t taste. Could I cook? Would I want to? As it was, I could barely eat, subsisting on a diet that consisted largely of cottage cheese with salsa, because I loved the texture of the dairy and could feel the spicy tingle of the salsa’s heat from the trigeminal nerve, which wraps around the face and into the mouth.

But in the kitchen, this first day that I felt ready to face the stove, I moved slowly on my crutches. First I turned on the oven, and then hopped gingerly on my good leg over to the cabinet where we stored the pots and pans. Out came the electric mixer, and a bevy of bowls. I grabbed a baking pan without having to move at all. I can do this, I thought. Using one crutch, I shimmied over to the refrigerator, where I grabbed some butter. Then the nearby shelf for sugar and cocoa powder. Okay.

Eventually, I wrangled the cookies into balls of raw dough, onto the baking sheets, and into the oven. I could feel the grainy texture of the sugar, the slippery one to the butter; I could feel the heat emanating from the stove. But no smell. When I removed the first batch of butter cookies from the oven, I could see that they were not pretty. Soft and misshapen in my awkward attempts to keep them even and aligned.

I breathed in over them, registering the sticky heat of their steam, and then I let them cool. In the past, the scent of a finished loaf of bread, vanilla cake, or pan of chocolate chip cookies as they exited the oven gave me a sense of purpose and pride. I had turned raw ingredients into something, something that people would love. The scent was a cue to hunger and pleasure. It would bring people together, leaving at least smiles in its wake. Suddenly, that cue was gone.

But then that evening I sat with my family around the dinner table, a plate of cookies between us. I couldn’t taste the chocolate, or the butter. The cookie crumbled lifelessly in my mouth. But even though the flavor was gone, the laughter was still there. And sometimes, that’s all that counts.

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    July 3, 2013 at 11:19 am |
  3. Paul F. Walters

    The incredulity at the sense of loss and the duration of resentment of it does not surprise me. Six months ago, after a viral illness, lost most of my sense of smell. Garlic, onions, fresh coffee, all stink of the worst kind of sulfurous, burnt-hair kind of smell. Fresh air and similar nature smells are reduced to the smell of wet dog, and most other things are a faint semblance of their original selves, or nothing at all. To this day when I comment about it my wife tells me to get it checked out or to just shut up. None of us realizes how important the sense of smell is, and we don't get much understanding from those who haven't experienced it because quite honestly I did not realize myself, though I would not make the type of crass comments seen by a few trolls here, amidst the much worse afflictions than I describe.

    September 18, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  4. Disgruntled_girl

    Lost my sense of smell due to a severe fever. It came back after a few months but terribly. Like a dead skunk, coffee, cigarettes and fresh cut grass all smelled alike – like the dead skunk. Tried surgery to "fix" a deviate septum that never bothered me before – now I snore and I still can't smell things as I use to.
    It's aggravating to say the least. I really feel for this writer. You know how a flood memories can come back with a scent? I only get that in dreams (which is odd, supposedly you aren't suppose to smell in dreams).

    September 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  5. jer

    for all you people with problems with taste and smell.....have you ever heard about the " The Taste and smell Clinic at the University of Connecticut in Farmington Conn...I had loss taste and smell for 5 yrs. and they came up with the answer with my problem...give it a shot...maybe it will help...good luck to all...jer

    September 1, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Disgruntled_girl

      Well heck that sounds workable. Thanks for the tip!

      September 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  6. aubrie

    I'm trying to wrap my brain around this... It's intersting and sad.... But I wonder.... Of all the people down through history that had their tongues cut out for various punishments.... is their sense of smell altered, since they can no longer taste without their tongue.... Does it work in the reverse????????

    September 1, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  7. Pat

    To CNN: To the author and to CNN: In paragraph 5, sentence 5: one "sweet" should be "sour" instead:
    "I could taste the salty, sweet, bitter, sweet, and umami of each bite on my taste buds."

    September 1, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Flippity Flappity.

      Silly rabbit, have a bowl of stfu Trix cereal.

      September 1, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  8. dave

    I lost my sense of smell 13 years ago due to the same thing. Most of the time it's fine and I don't think about it, but sometimes it is horrible. Christmas dinners or when my partner is trying a new perfume. I used to love whisky and wine and I still do, but I can not taste the nuances. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    September 1, 2011 at 5:37 am |
    • Jerv@dave

      Sorry to hear that dave, cuz I tell ya, I love me some whisky. There will be a toast tonight at my house to dave!

      September 1, 2011 at 7:37 am |
  9. Renee

    At least she doesn't have to smell her husband's farts anymore!

    September 1, 2011 at 3:45 am |
    • Podunk

      Get a life. You find humor in tragedy? Grow up.

      September 1, 2011 at 5:15 am |
    • Jerv@Renee

      Get off the computer and do your math homework.

      September 1, 2011 at 7:17 am |
  10. At Least She is in the Kitchen

    God probably punished her for thinking about leaving the kitchen.

    September 1, 2011 at 3:18 am |
    • Snark

      Bah haha.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:08 am |
    • Nada

      Seriously guy? I understand you're trying to make a joke, but that was lame and uncalled for. This isn't the 1950's anymore. Women aren't the only ones who have to cook. Im not trying to say no woman should ever cook again, but your sense of humor isn't that funny. Try a joke that hasn't been beaten to death yet.

      September 1, 2011 at 4:27 am |
    • Podunk

      What a dope.

      September 1, 2011 at 5:26 am |
      • Jerv@Podunk

        Agreed. Not even remotely amusing.

        September 1, 2011 at 7:35 am |
  11. Pepe

    That's what happens when you spend too much time cooking in the Fox cafeteria.

    September 1, 2011 at 2:12 am |
  12. Gloria

    Like Joyce, I too had a brain tumor in '96. The doctors took it out via my nose and ever since, I too have been unable to smell or taste since then. At first, I couldnt smell anything, and tasted only the sweet, bitter, salty etc. After almost 15 years i can now smell some things, like lavender, garlic, strong odors mostly. My taste hasn't improved much but I have to admit it never stopped me from eating. I remember thinking that I could now eat non fat mayo and it wouldn't bother me. Interestingly I still can't stand it. It has a strong chemical taste. Like the post above, I seek out salty, sweet, crunchy things constantly. I wish my smell would return full force. I'm resigned to the fact that it won't but I really miss the subtle smells like that of a pine forest, the ocean, puppy breath. I felt such sadness that I was never able to smell the sweet scent of my second baby. I do have scent and taste memories, especially in my dreams. I am definitely going to buy this book. I hope her senses return to her some day.

    September 1, 2011 at 12:48 am |
  13. Diane

    b. Slider: You really are an example of an individual that is uneducated. You probably could have been, at least through a funded local college, but chose not to. This is MOST apparent in your posts. College doesn't have to be the answer, but ignorance does not either. I am happy you have never experienced this condition. Fortunately, neither have I. I do feel for those afflicted...keep smiling guys..I am sure you cook better than most! Medicine is a miracle from time to time.

    Love hearing from b. Slider: probably has no palate and eats Burger King every night..... :)

    September 1, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • Rod C. Venger

      No palate? Lol. Do you know what a "sophisticated palate" is? A willingness to eat garbage. That's it.

      I note the date of the author's accident was in 2005. This is 2011.

      I think her PTSD is more of an issue than her sense of smell.

      September 1, 2011 at 12:42 am |
      • Podunk

        Huh. Now that we all know that you are satisfied with Burger King, kindly stay away from the talented chefs that offer us delight in choices of flavor. Just because you choose yo eat trash, don't mess with those of us who enjoy the variety of flavors that you don't care to try.

        September 1, 2011 at 5:21 am |
  14. Eileen McLaughlin

    I have traumatic anosmia from a head injury about 18 months ago. I cannot smell anything at all, even bleach or something burning. I can tell when something is salty, sweet or hot, but I cannot appreciate flavors anymore. It is very hard not being able to enjoy a nice glass of wine, as well as the smell of the ocean, or a burning fire in the fireplace. When I feel bad about the situation, I just try and remember that even though I can't enjoy food anymore, all of the other joys of life remain – family, laughter and love. That really is what counts!

    August 31, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • bob

      same here- over time, u wil be able to taste everything – i think there are stages to this anosmia – i have not been able to smell for 20 years – but now i can taste just as well as anyone, you'll see. the fun part is dreaming about smelling – i still do that now and then – other thing, when i come i the door after work and the wife has sauce cooking (garlic, basil, sausage, etc) i can tell something is cooking and it's good, i think i "taste" the smell – or, it just tickles the senses in the nose that would make you sneeze or something...yes, we still sneeze...

      September 1, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  15. zoundsman

    The last line in this story was the pinch of spice that MADE the "dish."

    August 31, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  16. Steven R.

    I have congenital anosmia. I was born without the ability to smell. Although I seldom think about this except when people around me talk about smell, I would very much like to smell before I die. I hope a scientist will develop a way to help people with my condition.

    August 31, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  17. Rita

    There are worse things in the world... Though,
    you have my sympathies.

    August 31, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • Carol

      There are worse things but I too have lost my sense of smell ergo most of my sense of taste. It's very unpleasant to eat by memory or texture. The medical profession is trying to determine why? I suspect recurrent bad sinus infections.

      August 31, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
      • todd

        I heard that inhaling zinc nasal medications can cause a permanent loss of sense of smell. Have you ever used such inhalents?

        August 31, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  18. Lindalou

    There's such a sense of accomplishment in getting the flavors just right. I feel for this chef..the meals I put on the table for my family have to pass my taste test first and if that scrutiny isn't there you'd have to have a very dependable protege do it for you..but it still wouldn't be the same. The joy of cooking would be gone for me.

    August 31, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  19. bob

    I lost my sense of smell, but not taste, in a similar accident. I can tell you honestly that i can taste as well as everyone else. they are related, but not as much as u think. it did take time. don't make cooking more of an art than it is, i can make the best food knowing what it is going to taste like without smelling what i think it is going to taste like, thing about it. do u touch or feel blue paint before you paint with it? no, u just know it's blue and it takes one sense. i know oregano is going to taste like oregano and i have three senses to prove it – sight, touch, taste.think about it. but it does really sck not being able to smell more than u can imagine.

    August 31, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  20. b. Slider

    I'm not sure if I believe this story or not. I would like to lock her in a small, unventilated room with ABDULLAH THE BUTCHER, about 40 minutes after he has eaten 3 or 4 two day old tacos, that were not kept on ice. Then we'll know for certain the status of her sense of smell!!!

    August 31, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • Carol

      Therein lies a big problem. I too have no sense of smell and can taste only salt, sugar and bitter. You can get mighty sick if you keep things in the refrig to long. Believe me when you can't smell you can't smell anything.

      August 31, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • Pilfer

      b. slider

      Having the nerves that carry the signals for smell to your brain severed will leave you unable to smell anything. Period. Just like a spinal injury can leave you unable to use of feel anything in your legs.

      TO see how this might effect taste Hold you nose tight so you cannot breath through it at all. Then eat a teaspoon full of cinnamon. Do not inhale when you eat it (some of the smell will reach your nasal cavity if you inhale through your mouth).

      After you do this you will realize how much smell determines taste.

      Then maybe you won't post idiotic posts about how hard it is to believe that your brain actually needs signals to interpret smells.

      September 1, 2011 at 3:59 am |
  21. JFS in IL

    I have never had a sense of smell – even in jr. high science class I was the only kid who didn't gag and run when teacher made a rotten egg stink on purpose. Yet I love to bake and cook – I love to read books about food (Gourmet magazine back in the 70's and 80's had some great descriptive writing!). I am big on texture and appearance of my food – and love a strong peppermint ice cream or candy because I can "feel" it. But herbs, etc. elude me. I do have some of the salt, sweet, sour (seems same as bitter to me) although whether I detect them as much as anyone else I have no idea. At least I am not bothered by dirty diapers or cleaning a cat box ;-)

    August 31, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • SgL

      I also have never had a sense of smell, and have the same reaction to food and cooking you do. My family and friends think I'm pretty good, I enjoy doing it, and I know that while I don't taste what they do, I enjoy textures and many of the sweet/salty/hot/bitter tastes I perceive. And, like you, this makes me very useful when it comes to diapers, cat boxes and dog poop. Here's to us anosmics!

      August 31, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  22. MarineDad05


    I feel bad for this chef.

    I wonder though, which is MORE important for a chef: the sense of smell or the sense of taste?

    I think it was Beethoven who was once asked whether he would have preferred losing his sight as opposed to hearing? Guess what he wanted?

    Well, I do hope, Molly acquires her sense of smell soon.

    August 31, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • johnny

      smell and taste and directly related. haven't you ever gotten a bad tasting medicine down your throat by holding your nose? if not, try eating something while pinching your nose closed.... you loose the majority of flavor in the food. you might be able to tell if its sweet, salty, sour, etc.... but you can't really taste it. this story is very sad, i feel for them.

      August 31, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • Tam

      Taste and smell are interrelated.

      August 31, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
  23. Kevin

    I lose my sense of taste and smell almost every time I get a cold. It drives me nuts. I refuse to eat. My wife thinks I'm crazy because I won't eat but she's obsessed with food.

    This is something that's always happened to me ever since I can remember. Sometimes, I'll go as far as to run super hot water and inhale the steam to drain my sinuses and reduce the swelling. This usually gives me enough time to taste and smell what I'm eating.

    I had a bad cold last year that causes me to not be able to taste or smell for 2 weeks straight. I lost 15 lbs.

    I couldn't imagine losing my sense of smell forever. I'd be skin and bones from never eating.

    August 31, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • EmeraldCity

      You're not alone. I get the same thing and am sure it's the same with countless others.

      Aside from the lack of smell/taste, for some reason, I just want liquids and hot soup anyway. The inclination to eat favorite foods goes away because I know I won't be able to enjoy them but my body seems to gravitate toward liquids (soups, juices, water, etc.) anyway.

      August 31, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  24. Dill Weed

    If you can't smell it, you didn't deal it.

    That's not all bad.

    August 31, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • b. Slider

      I smelled it, and your mama dealt it.

      August 31, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  25. thetack

    I was without my sense of smell for eight years due to undiagnosed nasal polyps. Cooking and baking had always been the only things at which I excelled. No one who has not experienced this loss can possibly understand how profound (and dangerous) it is. Try not knowing when your milk has gone bad, when you have left your gas oven on, or when your iron has burned through your ironing board. Imagine never smelling your baby's hair, or your husband's cologne, or the flowers at your wedding. Ironically, I actually gained weight during this period because I would seek out salty, sweet, crunchy foods desperately seeking anything with texture that my tongue – rather than my brain – could register. Fortunately, I finally found an allergist and an ENT Surgeon (thank you, Dr. K.!) who took me seriously and finally ordered a nasal CT. Words cannot describe how my world has changed. Don't scoff at something you have never experienced. This is about so much more than food.

    August 31, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Toby

      Thank you for a thoughtful comment on this story.

      I would be nearly lost if I couldn't "smell" – I sniff everything and food especially. A pox on the "fart joke' folks.

      August 31, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  26. Even Steven

    I remember back when I was a student in high school ~ I had a friend who was as dumb as an ox, and the cool thing about having him around was the fact that anyone could pull a fart in the room, and he'd never catch on because he just couldn't seem to smell it! We used to kid him about it all of the time. It didn't seem to effect his appetite, though; he had a belly that was built for summo wrestling. Ah, memories....

    August 31, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • b. Slider

      Hey Steve, how are's me, the fat guy from high school. I can't believe you still remember me, this is really amazing. Are you on facebook? I remember high school too, especially how your mom used to service us all while your dad was passed out drunk. Memories.......

      August 31, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  27. Katie

    I was an amateur chef myself when a series of horrible sinus infections and killer antibiotics robbed me of most of my smell. It made changing my baby's diapers easy, but my love of cooking was impaired. Inspiring to read about Molly and her recovery, though, and be happy my trauma was not nearly as severe as hers. Enjoyable story CNN and best to the writer!

    August 31, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  28. Joyce

    I had brain surgery in 96' to remove a meningeoma tumor. I love my smell and my taste. It has turned my life upside down. I also have this terrible taste in my mouth most of the time. My doctor has tried everything and I have even gone to a specialist. It gets so bad at times I just have to go to bed. I so miss the smell of the flowers and the rain. The smell of a little baby and the powder. If no one has experienced this they cannot understand how important it is to be able to smell and taste your food. I try to interact with my family as tho I am ok but I don't go anywhere anymore unless I have to.

    August 31, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  29. Jules

    Molly, so sorry to hear of your loss. I work in the field of brain injury rehabilitation and your article is an excellent reminder to me to assess sense of smell early on. Many of our patients have poor appetites and receive inadequate nutrition. I am sure that anosomia is largely undiagnosed in the early stages of recovery. Thank you for writing about this; I will start paying more attention to it.

    August 31, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • John

      Following my injury and loss of smell/taste, I have not lost my appetite. Many folks ask if I still like eat. Heck yes.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
      • b. Slider

        others ask if you know how to write English.

        August 31, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  30. Rebecca

    Many neurologists and ENTs will tell you that when the smell is gone, it's gone. The damage is usually irreversible and will not come back. I lost my sense of smell for almost a year and was told that it wouldn't come back. No one could pinpoint why I lost it, but after a bout with a flu type virus, it was gone. It was devestating. You really take your sense of smell for granted. I would constantly leave stuff on the stove and forget about it because I couldn't smell it burning. I would not realize when the cat litter was ready to be changed because I couldn't smell it. I was very self coscious and constantly showering for fear that I smelled bad and no one would tell me. Then, one day, I started to smell hot things. Then, as the months went by, I slowly began to smell non-hot things. What changed? I have no idea. Did damaged olfactory receptors repair themselves? No idea. Perhaps I was no longer around a certain allergen. Perhaps a change in medication did it. Doctors don't know. I don't know. I know my situation is not as cut and dry as a severed olfactory nerve, and I don't want to give false hope to anyone. However, I do not believe that this is a sense that is irrepairable.

    August 31, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • John

      I have always enjoyed cooking. Following a sever head injury three years ago, I lost my abiliity to smell and therefore had "taste without smell". I can detect salt, sweet, bitter and sour, but not flavor details. People express their sympathy to my loss of sense. I however, realize that I am now a better cook. My attention to textures and presentation is greatly improved as I can feel and see. With large meal preparation, I have someone assigned to taste the food and describe that taste to me.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Jules

      Did you by any chance inhale a zinc based cold virus product? These have been associated with damage to the olfactory nerves.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
      • Rebecca

        Jules- No, I didn't, but I did hear about Zycam and the like causing smell loss.

        September 1, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  31. Joe here in Colorado

    I lost my sense of smell completely after sinus surgery about 12 years ago. It didn't affect my cooking, though– people have always loved everything I craft in the kitchen.

    Slowly, after all these years, my smell is starting to actually come back slightly.

    August 31, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  32. david

    who cares

    August 31, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • cindy

      You are a sick & uncareing BAS****!!

      August 31, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
      • b. Slider

        But I care, CIndy, I care about puppies, kittens, fireflies, unicorns, butterflies, moths, ants, and birds of all kinds. Don't give up and lose fiath, there are still good, caring people around. I have to go now because my left foot is caught in a meat grinder

        August 31, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Lorelei

      David: get a life. I happen to care, as do many of the people who read this article. I have a friend who is a chef who has no sense of smell, so I found it interesting to find another case, and to read how about how she dealt with it. If you don't have anything nice to say, move on. If you don't care, why are you reading this article then taking the time to comment on it?

      August 31, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • Rob M

      You do know this is just flame bait.. a message to anger others while they laugh at the replies. Don't got for it.

      August 31, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • DAT67

      david – troll much?

      August 31, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  33. Emma

    My husband can't smell or remember it, but he says his sense of taste is fine. He has a cleft lip and palate and figures that if he was born with a sense of smell, he lost it during one of his surgeries.

    "shearing" the neurons (sorry).

    August 31, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Lee

      I feel so much pity for you people that are going through this.For you people saying a chef doesn't need smell, that's like saying a carpenter doesn't need hands. grow up idiots.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  34. Digital

    Any chef knows that the secret is in the taste not the smell.

    August 31, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Your Mother@Digital

      SIGH. If school days were just a few hours longer .....

      August 31, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • catLoversInc

      Gosh Digital!! Can't believe you don't know that smell and taste are related..

      August 31, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • cindy

      I'm sorry to be the 1 to tell you Digital, but taste & smell are VERRY connected. Personally I'm not a professional chef but every body calls my chef because i love to cook for people. If it don't look good AND OR smell good?? I will not present it to my guests.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:55 pm |

    Most SHEFS i have talked to are just overrated McDonalds fry cooks

    August 31, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Zippo@CrackyJohn

      Here,use a good lighter before commenting.

      August 31, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • justageek

      And most McDonalds fry cooks can get enough brains cells working together to spell chef.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:34 pm |

    Most chefs aka diner cooks dont care what their over priced food smells or tastes like because they are CHEFS not cooks

    August 31, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  37. Buggi

    I have had anosmia for as long as I can remember, probably cogenital but I don't know for sure. This article intices me to read the book, that's for sure. But I can certainly relate. I go heavy on the heat and tongue sensations. I hear a lot of people who come upon it later in life go through various stages and degrees of depression. For me, I don't remember ever having it, but I sure would like to know what it is like. It makes it hard to cook (I tend to over do the seasoning not knowing how much is needed to those who can smell), but I love learning about cooking and getting into the kitchen.

    August 31, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  38. Alicia Thompson

    Wow...I no longer feel so alone. I am a true foodie and I lost my sense of smell (and consequently taste) a few months ago after a illness. I started a blog ( to capture my journey. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    August 31, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  39. Markus

    KIM92EATON, you need to learn email / texting etiquette.
    All Caps means SHOUTING!
    I would hate to loose my "hearing" due to your shouting!

    August 31, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Helen Keller@Markus

      I've been blinded ...

      August 31, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • George H.W. Bush

      Read my lips...."NO NEW SHOUTING' !

      August 31, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Lorelei


      August 31, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  40. Dan

    Mine went away somewhere around 10 years old. I remember a bakery in vermont and honeysuckle near my house but thats about it. I do love to cook and it takes a lot of garlic or hot spices to make subtle stuff peek thru if that makes any sense.

    August 31, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  41. Herrmm

    Molly's recovery makes her one in a million. Most of us, especially head trauma victims, do not recover. I appreciate the attention her book brings to anosmia, but the focus on her recovery makes it harder for the rest of us. My olfactory was destroyed in a 1993 concussion and side effects will be with me forever. Medical coverage and doctors need to increase knowledge on the vast majority of us who will never smell a rose or enjoy a dinner again.

    August 31, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  42. rachel

    I am 30 now, lost my sense of smell when I was 5 in an accident. I am used to it most the time now, but there have been funny and dangerous incidents. "Funny" – letting the dog, who just got sprayed by a skunk – in the house to wipe himself on all our furniture. Using an entire bottle of garlic powder in a pot of pasta sauce, hoping to get it strong enough I could taste it. Accidentally wearing dirty gym clothes out, thinking they were clean, and not realizing I reeked. Dangerous though – driving a car that was actively leaking gas, and not realizing it. Being in a smoky house, and not smelling the smoke.

    Your sense of smell does more than just smell foods. I don't know what my husband smells like, what a new baby smells like, what flowers smell like.

    It is a loss to me, but there is nothing I can do. I just tell myself it is the least of the senses, and the best one to lose, if there was a choice.

    August 31, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Jerv

      Thank you for your post, I had no idea.

      August 31, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • leej

      So sorry. I like your perspective on it, it's very postive.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • Christy

      Well said much more to it than not being able to smell food. I wish I could know what my husband and kids smell like.

      August 31, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  43. Donna Gayle

    I had a tonsillectomy at age 35 (almost 4 years ago!), and somehow, I forever lost my taste of sweet, and my taste of salt comes and goes. I know well the feeling of food being "dead and flat" on your tongue. I was an accomplished baker, an outstanding ethnic Cajun cook. What was "sweet" is now "absence of bitterness", and what was a light confection is now well-done sawdust. Chocolate is either salty or a grease crayon. So much depends on our senses of taste and smell...Our earliest food memories hinge upon smell! Through the years, I have had to learn, through feedback from my kids and husband regarding their tastebuds, how to do my recipes all over again. It is hard, but I am doing it. Though I now believe that I will never taste sugar again, perhaps the greatest memories I can give my kids is a shared sense of accomplishment. They have a hand in what I create; it becomes theirs, too. Long after I am gone, they will make the same dishes, remember me and weep. This curse for me will be a blessing for my kids. (((hugs)))

    August 31, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  44. Jessa

    My husband was born without a sense of smell (congenital anosmic). He's a great cook, and cooks all the time. For him, it's all about experimenting with the colors and the texture, but it always tastes great too (well, usually. Sometimes he goes a big happy on the kimchi).

    I know it's a big change, but a life full of great cooking is still possible, even without smell! <3

    August 31, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Herrmm

      Your husband's experience is not typical. After 18.5 years, I don't recall what anything smells like or what most foods taste like. Foods are tolerable or intolerable; my favorite flavor is bland. There is no cure and there is almost no understanding of the condition, among physicians as well as among the public. I don't mean to criticize you but it angers me when people trivialize the condition. The condition and its consequences are serious. "Make lemonaide" is not an acceptable response.

      August 31, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
      • Di

        I don't think anyone is trivializing this issue at all. In fact, I think the article brings attention to the issue. However, after 18.5 years, don't you think it is time to let the anger go a little. I can only imagine how frustrating your current condition is. While I do not know anyone personally with this condition, I've known others who have lost their sight, lost their hearing or lost a limb. While anger is a natural response to grieving this loss, those that have held on to that anger are miserable. Those that are able to let go of that anger and move on with their lives are much happier. God Bless!

        August 31, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  45. KIM92EATON


    August 31, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  46. Matt

    Terribly sorry to read about your tragedy. I sincerely hope you are on the mend soon. I complain about my tendonitis flairing up but I can't imagine being hit by a car and not being able to smell. I'll keep this quote in mind the next time I want to belly ache. "But even though the flavor was gone, the laughter was still there. And sometimes, that’s all that counts. "

    August 31, 2011 at 10:11 am |
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