Saturday, February 21, 2015

It has that name for a reason

Over the last six weeks or so, we've been bothered by a smell, an odor, in our pantry.

Several times, we've hunted through it, digging around, trying to figure out what was causing it.

The leading candidates were the two packages of salmon-liver and bison dog training treats.

Indeed, they are detectable even to our poor human noses, and of course are many hundreds of times more interesting to our dear old black Lab.

But we sealed them up in ziplocs and moved them elsewhere, and they were not the issue.

It seemed rather sulfurous, so much so that we even called the Gas Company and asked them if we somehow had a leak, though it was nowhere close to the supply lines.

Dutifully, they sent a nice man. He agreed that there was a definite smell, and that it was not that far from the methane that they deliberately introduce to natural gas for exactly this reason.

But it was not a gas leak.

Infuriated, I finally unloaded the entire pantry into our living room, spreading things out everywhere (it's rather a large pantry).

And, just as I thought might happen, suddenly Donna exclaimed:

Oh, Ugh! Yes, this is it!

And once we both saw the culprit, I instantly understood why.

Let's pick up the story from the delightful article in a 2009 issue of Saudi Aramco World: "Devil's Dung": The World's Smelliest Spice.

I bought a fist-sized lump of brown-gray resin. Slightly sticky to the touch, it was as dense as a block of wood. Mostly, though, it was remarkable for its terrible, aggressive smell—a sulfurous blend of manure and overcooked cabbage, all with the nose-wrinkling pungency of a summer dumpster. The stench leached into everything nearby, too, which meant I had to double-wrap it and seal it in a plastic tub if I wanted to keep it in the kitchen.

About six months ago, we were trying to cook some recipe, and it called for Asafoetida.

Which we didn't have.

So, we did without (and the recipe was fine).

But then we happened to be in an Indian grocery sometime around the holidays, and I pointed out a jar on the shelf: "Look, dear, they have asafoetida! Shall we buy some, so in case we ever cook a recipe which has it, we'll have it at hand?"

Now, I'm not so sure that was a wise idea.

But at least the Great Mystery of the Pantry Odor is solved.

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