The Science Behind Why We Love Stinky Cheese
Usually if something smells funky or rancid, we’ve been trained to toss it. But there is one big exception to this rule: stinky cheese. Even the most mild of blue cheeses have a certain sharp aroma, and when you get around a reaaaaal stinker like creamy, cave-aged French Epoisses, the smell can linger in your nose (and the entire room you ate it in) for a long time. Yet, in spite of the stank, people will travel across the world to enjoy this creamy delicacy. And now we know why.
In the above exclusive clip from Food—Delicious Science (premiering on PBS this Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET), host James Wong explains why a cheese that smells like stinky feet tastes so damn good. “The sulfur-like, stinky-sock-smelling, volatile aroma molecules from stinky cheese stimulate a unique combination of receptors to help us identify the smell,” he explains. “But when you eat it, something magical happens: The aroma compounds are released in your mouth and they waft up the back of your nose. They’re detected by the same smell detectors, but weirdly your brain perceives them as very different than if you lean forward and sniff them up the front of your nose.”
Woof, that’s a stinker.
This witchcraft is called backwards smelling: the brain combines the pungent smell with the creamy, comforting taste it’s experiencing on the tongue at the same time. “This combination of taste and smell has a dramatic effect on how we perceive a particular molecule,” he notes, and if you want to have the
of a cheese’s flavor and scent, always eat the rind—that’s where most of the smells exist.
Wish we could walk on the surface of an Epoisses.
They say don’t judge a book by its cover, so we shouldn’t judge a cheese by its smell. It takes a very special food to be so stinky, yet have the well-rounded garlicky, almost-meaty, warm, comforting, delicious flavor of Epoisses. Sweet dreams are made of smelly cheese.
Discover the science behind we love stinky cheese like French Epoisses or blue cheese with a clip from PBS show Food—Delicious Science.
Has Your Blue Cheese Gone Bad? Here’s a Simple Way to Tell
It’s not always obvious when food has gone bad, but blue mold and a funky smell are usually clear signs that something belongs in the trash. That is unless you’re dealing with blue cheese, a product that by design includes blue-green speckles of mold. So how are you to tell the difference between the tasty kind of old, moldy cheese and the kind that will get you sick?
Before cleaning out your cheese drawer, you should first familiarize with what a desirable hunk of blue cheese looks and smells like. Carie Wagner, one of Wisconsin’s elite master cheesemakers, tells The Takeout that good blue cheese should have greenish-blue veins and a body that’s cream to white in color. Blue cheese is also supposed to be pungent—if the smell that first hits you when you peel back the plastic is comparable to ammonia, that’s not a bad thing.
But there are some living things you never want to see growing on your cheese, even if mold is the main selling point. Fuzzy gray or black patches of mold or shiny pink or yellow spots of yeast are indications that your blue cheese is past the point of no return. Cheese that is slimy or feels tough and dry has also likely spoiled.
As with most foods, the easiest way to tell if blue cheese is safe to eat is to use your senses and basic judgment. Does that last piece in the back of fridge look a little discolored? Does it smell funky in a way that tickles your gag reflex, not your taste buds? You probably shouldn’t eat it.
And if all blue cheese smells equally rotten to you, perhaps you should stick to snacks that don’t resemble science experiments quite so closely.
12 Creative Ways to Spend Your FSA Money Before the Deadline
If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), chances are, time is running out for you to use that cash. Depending on your employer’s rules, if you don’t spend your FSA money by the end of the grace period, you potentially lose some of it. Lost cash is never a good thing.
For those unfamiliar, an FSA is an employer-sponsored spending account. You deposit pre-tax dollars into the account, and you can spend that money on a number of health care expenses. It’s kind of like a Health Savings Account (HSA), but with a few big differences—namely, your HSA funds roll over from year to year, so there’s no deadline to spend it all. With an FSA, though, most of your funds expire at the end of the year. Bummer.
The good news is: The law allows employers to roll $500 over into the new year and also offer a grace period of up to two and a half months to use that cash (March 15). Depending on your employer, you might not even have that long, though. The deadline is fast approaching for many account holders, so if you have to use your FSA money soon, here are a handful of creative ways to spend it.
1. Buy some new shades.
Head to the optometrist, get an eye prescription, then use your FSA funds to buy some new specs or shades. Contact lenses and solution are also covered.
You can also buy reading glasses with your FSA money, and you don’t even need a prescription.
2. Try acupuncture.
Scientists are divided on the efficacy of acupuncture, but some studies show it’s useful for treating chronic pain, arthritis, and even depression. If you’ve been curious about the treatment, now’s a good time to try it: Your FSA money will cover acupuncture sessions in some cases. You can even buy an acupressure mat without a prescription.
If you’d rather go to a chiropractor, your FSA funds cover those visits, too.
3. Stock up on staples.
If you’re running low on standard over-the-counter meds, good news: Most of them are FSA-eligible. This includes headache medicine, pain relievers, antacids, heartburn meds, and anything else your heart (or other parts of your body) desires.
There’s one big caveat, though: Most of these require a prescription in order to be eligible, so you may have to make an appointment with your doctor first. The FSA store tells you which over-the-counter items require a prescription.
4. Treat your feet.
Give your feet a break with a pair of massaging gel shoe inserts. They’re FSA-eligible, along with a few other foot care products, including arch braces, toe cushions, and callus trimmers.
In some cases, foot massagers or circulators may be covered, too. For example, here’s one that’s available via the FSA store, no prescription necessary.
5. Get clear skin.
Yep—acne treatments, toner, and other skin care products are all eligible for FSA spending. Again, most of these require a prescription for reimbursement, but don’t let that deter you. Your doctor is familiar with the rules and you shouldn’t have trouble getting a prescription. And, as WageWorks points out, your prescription also lasts for a year. Check the rules of your FSA plan to see if you need a separate prescription for each item, or if you can include multiple products or drug categories on a single prescription.
While we’re on the topic of faces, lip balm is another great way to spend your FSA funds—and you don’t need a prescription for that. There’s also no prescription necessary for this vibrating face massager.
6. Fill your medicine cabinet.
If your medicine cabinet is getting bare, or you don’t have one to begin with, stock it with a handful of FSA-eligible items. Here are some items that don’t require a prescription:
You can also stock up on first aid kits. You don’t need a prescription to buy those, and many of them come with pain relievers and other medicine.
7. Make sure you’re covered in the bedroom.
Condoms are FSA-eligible, and so are pregnancy tests, monitors, and fertility kits. Female contraceptives are also covered when you have a prescription.
8. Prepare for your upcoming vacation.
If you have a vacation planned this year, use your FSA money to stock up on trip essentials. For example:
- Motion sickness medication or bands
- Travel-sized headache medicine
- First-aid kits for your suitcase, carry-on bag, or car
- Compression socks for long flights (just make sure they’re rated 30-40 mmHg or above)
9. Get a better night’s sleep.
If you have trouble sleeping, sleep aids are eligible, though you’ll need a prescription. If you want to try a sleep mask, many of them are eligible without a prescription. For example, there’s this relaxing sleep mask and this thermal eye mask.
For those nights you’re sleeping off a cold or flu, a vaporizer can make a big difference, and those are eligible, too (no prescription required). Bed warmers like this one are often covered, too.
Your FSA funds likely cover more than you realize, so if you have to use them up by the deadline, get creative. This list should help you get started, and many drugstores will tell you which items are FSA-eligible when you shop online.
10. Go to the dentist.
While basics like toothpaste and cosmetic procedures like whitening treatments aren’t FSA eligible, most of the expenses you incur at your dentist’s office are. That includes co-pays and deductibles as well as fees for cleanings, x-rays, fillings, and even the cost of braces. There are also some products you can buy over-the-counter without ever visiting the dentist. Some mouthguards that prevent you from grinding your teeth at night are eligible, as are cleaning solutions for retainers and dentures.
11. Try some new gadgets.
If you still have some extra cash to burn, it’s a great time to try some expensive high-tech devices that you’ve been curious about but might not otherwise want to splurge on. The list includes light therapy treatments for acne, vibrating nausea relief bands, electrical stimulation devices for chronic pain, cloud-connected stethoscopes, and smart thermometers.
12. Head to Amazon.
There are plenty of FSA-eligible items available on Amazon, including items for foot health, cold and allergy medication, eye care, and first-aid kits. Find out more details on how to spend your FSA money on Amazon here.
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Why Neatly Carve Your Meat When You Can Shred It Like a Bear With These Handy Meat Shredders?
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Unlike animal claws, our spindly fingers aren’t particularly well-suited to ripping through large hunks of meat, even those cooked to fall-off-the-bone perfection. Though the market has plenty of manual and electric knives to carve or slice it, shredding is a different beast entirely. A couple of forks can work in a pinch, and hand mixers have also proven useful. But the task really calls for a device of its own—something as sharp and resilient as bear paws.
Enter Bear Paws, the six-pronged, handheld shredders that’ll help you produce the most mouthwatering heap of pulled pork, barbecued chicken, or whatever other shredded protein you’re serving for dinner. The devices can handle temperatures as hot as 475°F, so you don’t have to wait for your meat to cool down before you start shredding.
Bear Paws can solve other culinary conundrums, too. When you’re cooking something especially large, it can be difficult to transfer it from pan or grill to platter; you can’t exactly pick up a searing-hot turkey with your hands, and trying to balance it between serving forks or spatulas seems ill-advised. Sticking a Bear Paw in either end does the trick. You can also stick one Bear Paw in the turkey (or watermelon) to keep it steady while you slice it with a knife, much like you’d do with a fork while cutting something smaller on your plate.
And after you’re finished, you can toss your Bear Paws in the dishwasher or wash them by hand—an especially easy task, since there aren’t any hard-to-clean holes, cracks, or hinges.
Bear Paws are available to purchase from The Grommet ($12) or Amazon ($13).
Not all mold is created equal.