Not long ago, I decided to cook one of my favorite Crock-pot meals — Hungarian goulash. It had been months since I made it last. My mouth watered as I recalled the deliciousness of the meat and gravy, in itself so good I could have sipped it from a glass like a fine wine.
But something weird happened. As the combination of stew meat, tomatoes and spices began to brew, my nose picked up a strange odor.
“Do you smell that?” I asked my husband.
“What does it smell like?” he said suspiciously.
“I don’t know … greasy meat or something,” I said, holding my nose.
He shook his head and looked confused.
As the day wore on and the goulash continued to cook, the odd smell permeated the house and my nose. By the time it was ready to eat, I could not go near the kitchen, and tasting the goulash was out of the question.
My husband, however, devoured two helpings and called the meal a success.
I’ve always had a very strong sense of smell, but that was the first time I had been foiled so dramatically by it. Throughout the following week I continued to be grossed out by scents I normally love, like my vanilla-scented hand lotion. I slathered it on my hands one day at work and almost lost my lunch in the trashcan. My daughter now owns the offensive tube.
In search of answers, I Googled “hyperactive sense of smell” and came up with lots of possible causes, from pregnancy and cluster headaches to migraines and Addison’s disease. None of those applied to me, however, so I continued my research and discovered that my malady had its own name.
Hyperosmia is an abnormally acute sense of smell, according to thefreedictionary.com, and abnormalities of smell and taste are thrown into a category called chemosensory disorder. The experts at smellandtaste.org say severe hyperosmia can be treated through surgery and medications like vitamins, steroids, antidepressants and anticonvulsants.
After reading all I ever wanted to know about hyperosmia, I conducted an informal survey of my Facebook friends. The survey revealed that my misery had lots of company. But here’s the interesting thing — the only friends who “liked” and commented “yes” that they also have strong senses of smell were women. That led me to unscientifically conclude that hyperosmia is somehow connected to hormones.
Over the weeks, my hyperactive nose mellowed. I’m no longer revolted by the benign scents of crackers, grass and laundry detergent, and I stopped carrying Febreze in my purse.
But my love affair with goulash and vanilla-scented hand lotion is officially over.