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Scents and Sensibilities

On This Day of Overindulgence and Football, a Few Thoughts About Mythology, Semantics and Pie


Spicy pumpkin pie, roasting turkey basted in its own juices and cranberries--these definitely are the smells of the season. But for the male sex, they could trigger more than a holiday appetite, says Dr. Alan Hirsh, neurological director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.

"These odors are a turn-on for guys," says Hirsh of his male olfactory studies. (Parallel studies on women are next.) Hirsh says certain foods combined with other odors--such as pumpkin pie and lavender--can drive a man crazy. Why?

"Odors affect our sexual response and some, like pumpkin pie, evoke a Pavlovian conditional response, recalling sexual partners," he says, adding that the scent helps reduce anxiety, which removes inhibitions and gets the libido jumping.

We'll have seconds, doc.

Susan Knasko, an environmental psychologist with Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, says mincemeat pie might have the same effect on both genders because it is laden with spices and loaded with cinnamon, another male turn-on.

"Baking it would give a pleasant odor to the kitchen, which would put everyone in a good mood," she says. And that of course, is what every good host and hostess hopes to accomplish. Knasko has other hints: If you want your guests to stay longer, then douse your home with the scents of peppermint and lemon, which evoke a clean, healthy environment. Freshen the carpet with baby powder--your guests will go gaga goo-goo over the scent and like newborns will feel comforted. Fresh air, flowers, oranges, Play-doh--all will evoke childhood memories.

But if you serve chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake or chocolate brownies, beware. You're back in that arousal area. "People are certainly more alert and aroused with chocolate," Knasko says.

Hirsh agrees, adding that strawberries also are sexually exciting.

Mmmm. Dip ours in chocolate.

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