We know that the majority of taste is actually aroma. There are literally thousands of different aromas that can be interpreted by the scent receptors in your head. It’s a complex system that ties scent to memory in order to allow us to have a frame of reference for different scents and flavors. It’s not something that we think about often enough in the kitchen. Admittedly there are many chefs that use aroma to create an effect. Burning wood, blowing perfumes, even Mrs. Fields relies on the aroma of fresh baked cookies to draw customers through their doors. Unfortunately in the kitchen many cooks forget the importance of their sense of smell.
We always employ our noses to build flavors with spices. Instead of thinking through a flavor profile we like to actually sniff the spices and decide what to pair that way. It has led us to some unusual and wonderful combinations. The same approach works nicely with herbs, helping us determine what fresh green flavors will best compliment a dish. The smell of burnt sugar and fresh orange zest can take us in one direction while the earthy aroma of matsutake mushrooms and cinnamon send us down a different path. When we are stumped on the kitchen, taking a moment to close our eyes and simply breathe in a few different ingredients can reignite our creative juices and help light the way forward.