Smells around us
What are some of your favorite smells? Without our noses we couldn’t enjoy things like our favorite meal cooking, or a bouquet of flowers. Our nose also helps us know what we are eating. This happens because as we chew our food, air is flowing from our mouth to the back of our throat. When it reaches our throat, some air reaches the back of our nose. Our nose picks up the smell, and the signals are sent to the brain. The full flavor (whether you like the food or not) is “tasted” by your nose as well as your mouth!
Our tongue can pick out four types of tastes – bitter, sour, sweet, and salty. We can taste because of the tiny bumps called taste buds that are all over our tongue, and the top (or roof) of our mouth. Taste buds are connected to nerves in the tongue, and they pick up the signals that are sent to the brain so you can taste what you are eating. The inside of our mouth can also feel the foods we are eating, so if you don’t like a food, it might not be the flavor, but the texture that “tastes” gross.
Being civilized and human means, for one thing, that our lives are not ruled by smells. The social behaviour of most animals is controlled by smells and other chemical signals. Dogs and mice rely on doors to locate food, recognize trails and territory identify kin, and find a receptive mate. Social insects such as ants send and receive intricate chemical signals that tell them precisely where to go and how to behave at all times of day.
But humans “see” the world largely through eyes and ears. We neglect the sense of smell—and often suppress our awareness of what our nose tells us. Many of us have been taught that there is something shameful about doors.
Yet mothers can recognize their babies by smell, and newborns recognize their mothers in the same way. The smells that surround us affect our well-being throughout our lives.