Brussels Sprouts and Smell

To everyone who thinks they hate brussels sprouts: you just haven’t tried them the right way. Brussels sprouts can be delicious but when done wrong, they are indisputably terrible. If overcooked, they can turn into grey, mushy, flavorless blobs that smell like sulfur and death.

Our sense of smell is incredibly complex. Smells are detected by multiple odor receptors and the multiple signals are then combined and interpreted by our brain. Our olfactory genome is one of the largest subsets in the human genome – we have invested quite a bit into our sense of smell. 

This explains why certain smells can have such strong memories associated. I can’t smell my mother’s perfume or my first boyfriend’s soap without thinking of them. Smells can have negative memory associations as well – my professor gave the example of alcohol, specifically the first alcohol that makes you throw up. Those who have had the unfortunate experience of testing their boundaries can vouch that the smell sticks with you.

Unlike taste, our preference for certain smells is learned, not innate. So when we smell overcooked brussels sprouts, our dislike isn’t of the smell itself but rather of the associated taste. Maybe some of you just need a better taste to associate with the smell. After all, these little cruciferous veggies are packed full of nutrients and are a great addition to your winter dinners. Here are two brussels sprouts recipes that I love:

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

from Eat, Live, Run (

These caramelized brussels sprouts are one of my favorite simple winter dinners. They’re quick to throw together and taste like candy while still being good for you. I like them over whole wheat pasta, sometimes with a fried egg on top.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

from Wigg’s Modern Life (

Almost every vegetable is better roasted and brussels sprouts are no exception. These may not look pretty but trust me, they taste good enough to make up for it. The balsamic vinegar is a nice complement to the sweetness from the roasting.

So if you think you hate brussels sprouts, give them another try – they might surprise you.


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