So when you walk into a warehouse store, or a supermarket, what do you first smell? Does it smell like a place full of food? Like an open air market in Rome or Istanbul or Hanoi, or like a spice store or a salumeria, or a cheese store or a fruit store? Do you smell anything edible? Maybe the rotisserie chickens, but not until you get to the back. Nothing smells like food in our food stores. They smell like A/C and floor buffer wax and freezer case air and a hundred different chemical cleaning products and DVD rental boxes and clearance lawn chairs…but not food.
If the places that are purportedly selling us food, don’t smell like food, then how do we know that we’re buying food? How do we trust our senses, especially our most primal one? Well, we don’t, that’s the Foodiness scam. to trick you into buying processed and packaged, while telling you it’s real and whole and better. Because if the smell is gone, then the possibility of decay and rot and putrefaction is gone. And that’s what our noses are really for, to tell us if our food is ripe and delicious or old and dangerously rotting, or poisonous, or moldy. So if we eliminate the smells, we eliminate obsolescence, and we can live forever in an air-conditioned, sanitized, shiny bright world of dino-nuggets and cotton-candy-oreo-flavored coffee creamers.
So I’d like to do a scientific study where I send people shopping in today’s supermarkets and warehouse stores, blindfolded, and then see how they navigate and shop based solely on smell. I guess it’s how blind people shop, I’ve never really thought about that until right now. They must need someone to go with them to read all the packages and boxes so they don’t accidentally buy the pumpkin-spiced flavored carpet shampoo instead of the pumpkin spiced flavored low-fat cream cheese spread. I wonder if they have service dogs who can read all the labels for them, I mean a dog’s nose is a thousand times more sensitive than our noses, but I doubt that even a bloodhound could sniff out any real food in a Walmart Supercenter.
Then I’d take the blindfolded people to a farmer’s market on a warm August afternoon, and let them wander around smelling the ripe peaches and the bunches of basil and the dirt clinging to the carrots, then to the live animal butcher near me, to smell the chicken blood and the goat poop. Ok, that might be too much for some. But I wonder what would happen? Would people suddenly revert back to their basic human selves? Go mad from the smell of an oozing nectarine and a just-caught flounder on crushed ice? Or would they freak out because the smells were so “unnatural”, as ridiculous as that sounds. Have we gone that far down the Foodiness rabbit hole? I hope not, but every time I set foot into Stop-n-shop or Shop-rite or A&P or a Publix, I have my fears and doubts…