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Steak: the final frontier

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by Tara Kimura, CBCNews.ca

Ever curious what outer space smells like? Apparently and surprisingly, it smells a lot like a fried steak and hot metal, according to a chemist hired by NASA.

Steven Pearce, a chemist and director of a fragrance manufacturing company, has been commissioned by NASA to recreate the smell as described by astronauts.

Pearce's project aims to provide astronauts-in-training a fuller sense of what to expect in space. The British chemist said he was contacted by NASA after working on an art exhibition which explored "extinct and impossible smells" including the Titanic, communism and the surface of the sun. Pearce's contribution to the art exhibit included a recreation of the smells of the Mir space station.

In an interview with the BBC, Pearce said the sense of smell is the most underrated sense.

"It's a direct extension of the brain," he said. "We can smell something now as an adult and it instantly takes us back to school not just in a glimpse but in a real detail – reminding us what that desk smelled like, that kid next to us, the teacher's perfume and so on."

For me, the smell of anything minty takes me back to my grandmother's dining room where there was always a fresh stash of scotch mints in a red-lid jar in the corner. The smell alone sharpens my memory of the lace pattern of the table cloth and the placement of the family portraits on the walls.

What foods trigger memories for you?

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Comments

Ben Carter

The smell of freshly baked bread reminds me of visits to my grandmother's house when I was
young.

Posted October 17, 2008 03:52 PM

Doug

Ottawa

Topical but true, the last week involved at the caressing aromas of 2 dinners, one duck, one turkey along with potatoes and turnips and bread and the exclamatory accent of brown sugar, pumpkin. cinnamon, and cloves.

Those aromas did foreshadow a pleasant meal. More to the topic, the moment I walked in the door and inhaled the first deep nasal breath, a lifetime of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners came to mind.

It was not specific memories of events long past, but a soothing wave of emotional memories - of comfort, laughter, sharing, indulgence, and belonging in the world.

The sense of smell is perhaps not underrated as most anyone can deep moments of sensuality involving smell. Smell is more likely unexplored in scientific dissection.

In paradoxical ways I desire both to know and have science master and manage this sense, and a stronger desire that the joys and of aroma remain a mysterious land of wonder and exploration.

Posted October 18, 2008 09:14 AM

Sarah

I was raised in a largely self-sufficient family. My dad raised a huge garden and hunted each fall for moose - part of the "end of summer" smell was the scent of a moose hanging in the cold basement for a week or so.

My dad died in 1994, and my sisters and mother and I grew away from that lifestyle. Recently we've all been rediscovering it and this year, on a family visit up north, one of my sisters and my husband went hunting and shot a moose. They got back late at night, and the next morning I got up and went to have a look at the moose and as soon as I opened the door to the basement I nearly burst into tears - the smell of moosemeat hit me - fresh, soft and rich - and it was almost like my dad was THERE, I was transported back 20 years in an instant and the house suddenly seemed *right* in a way it hadn't since my father died.

Posted October 18, 2008 09:34 AM

Patricia Shapiro

Ottawa

The food that triggers memories for me is my mother's tourtiere. Not only the half beef-half pork filling, with its hint of cloves and onions, but her amazing light as a feather pastry. I have the recipe, in her own hand, but somehow mine never tastes exactly like hers. Wish she was still here!

Posted October 19, 2008 06:34 AM

Daniel

I have memories linked to the smell of my Grandpa's old garage. I don't really know what the smell is, but recent visits to more modern garages fail to match it. Sometimes in old antique shops, or going to someplace old, like Heritage Park in Calgary, or Fort Edmonton, can get a hint of that scent.

Wish I knew what it was though....

Posted October 20, 2008 02:01 PM

AlysM

Cooking smells are the most evocative for me. I was trying to figure out which one when I realized that it is all of them in their season. Canning of pickles and jams, baking potatoes, fresh cookies coming out of the oven, the pot roast we had last night. Each one tells of being fed and feeding others - that is the quintessential part of family and community.

Posted October 28, 2008 08:45 PM

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From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.

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Amber Hildebrandt Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.

Andrea Chiu Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.

Tara Kimura Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.

Andree Lau Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).

Jessica Wong Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.

Kevin Yarr Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.

Elizabeth Bridge Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.

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