By Wayne Chan, AsAmNews Humorist
Yesterday I learned about being a “nose”.
I have a nose, and as far as I can tell, I’ve been using it all my life. But as far as being a perfume maker, I have never been a quote, unquote, nose.
Let’s back up a bit.
My wife Maya and I are just now finishing up a vacation to Europe. The last part of our vacation has been in Nice, Paris, and for a day trip, we traveled to Grasse, France, which, I am told, is the birthplace of perfume. So, naturally, instead of lounging about the beach gazing at all the topless people walking about on the beach, we decide to go to Grasse and take a perfume making class.
Right at the start of the class, the instructor explains that being a “nose” is the epitome of perfume making. It’s an art, where a professional nose, after taking one whiff of a perfume, can immediately identify every individual component of a perfume, whether it’s a note of vanilla, jasmine, lavender, or any other scent you could imagine.
This is where I realized that I do not have a “nose”. I have a nose, of course, but not a “nose”.
In fact, once we sat down to “compose” our first perfume, I couldn’t really identify any particular scent. To be honest, it all smelled like I had been dropped into a giant vat of potpourri. A few times during our lesson, I had to go outside to clear my head, breathe in some of the traffic exhaust outside before I could continue to “compose”.
So while I may never have a second career as a perfume composer, on a different level, I now have a deeper appreciation of this sense that I’ve had all my life. In fact, you might say it’s been a sense hidden right under my nose the whole time (sorry, I couldn’t resist that one).
Of course, there are the pleasant smells everyone is familiar with – freshly baked cookies, the ocean breeze on a summer day, my ability to identify all the toppings of a pizza at 50 paces. We all have our favorites.
Yet what fascinates me more are the unpleasant scents, the awful odor of things that for everyone’s benefit I won’t describe right now. It’s not that I appreciate these terrible smells, but in very specific cases, how people have managed to turn them into very profitable businesses.
Since I’m Chinese American, let’s start with Smelly Tofu. It’s smelly, and it’s tofu. That’s it. That’s the product. You can find it in China and Taiwan. It has a rotten stench. It smells like a leather shoe that has been worn too long during a particularly hot summer. And yet, people line up to eat it typically at night markets throughout the area. It has a crackly crunch and oozes out a bit of soy sauce when you bite into it. The smell comes from the fermentation of the tofu which can take about a week for it to truly ripen. It’s a revolting delicacy.
But this isn’t just a phenomenon of the east. Here where I am in France, I’ve discovered Epoisse de Bourgogne, a cheese so pungent that it’s banned on all French public transport and banned from being imported to several countries.
It smells awful, and that is what people like about it. Wait a MINUTE! I’ve missed a whole new business model!
Over the next few weeks, my new company Odoriffic will be premiering a brand new product that will take over the sandwich world. Introducing, Sandwich au thon avarié. For those of you who are now turning to Google translate and see that the literal translation from French is “Spoiled Tuna Sandwich”, while that might be technically correct, our sandwich is so much more.
It’s not just a spoiled tuna sandwich. It comes with a slice of Epoisse de Bourgogne on top and a side of smelly tofu.
I can just see the franchise store opportunities now.
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