Who would like your apartment to smell like chicken curry or Asian Cologne?
Posted on June 29th, 2012

Dr Hector Perera       London

Only if you live in an apartment would understand the problem of cooking smells, it’s is a big problem, apart from many other problems associated with living in apartments. Just visit to an apartment to see how it is designed, the kitchen is open to the living room in most apartments. The house always has a remnant of cooking smell even when you kept all the doors and windows open. If there are carpets then the couch and everything smell cooking aroma. It is a little embarrassing when you have company. You can try air fresheners but I have my doubts whether it would solve this problem. Don’t forget if the windows are open, other cooking smells from the neighbors also come in there due mixing of air. Then you might say, “Please help!!!!

When I visit Sri Lanka for a short holiday, I also live in an apartment where the kitchen is open to the living room, so I understand where other peoples problems coming from. I have several suggestions; a combination of some or all of these might solve these problems or at least cut down the smell. The people depend on extractor fan to extract the smell, this is the usual case, the question is, “Does it solve the problem”?

One of the solutions is to neutralize the smell.  How about cleaning, when cleaning, don’t forget to wipe down your walls, windows, and blinds, what about the ceilings? Walls especially can harbor smells. If you have flat paint, you will not be able to wash your walls, but if you have any other finish, you can actually wash them.

When you’re having company your friends, relatives over there, you can use a simple boiling pot with cinnamon in it to make the house smell fabulous. The cinnamon sticks work the best, but ground cinnamon works as well because powder has greater surface area or, you can just use some awesomely smelly candles, if you’re into that sort of thing. When you go for a meal at an Indian restaurant, there is always a candle on the table, now you know why.

Whenever you have to cook odoriferous foods in your own apartment, try placing a small bowl of white vinegar on your stove top. It absorbs the odour instead of masking it.

Some people say, vanilla works great for a kitchen that smells. Put vanilla a few tablespoons in a very small bowl then microwave on high for 30 – 45 seconds. Did it help?

The other day, I just burned some dry fish by accident in my apartment, so I speak from experience. The smell was terrible to bear, had to open the windows and even the main door, I am sure it must have spread to the rest of the apartments as well. For really persistent smells like burned dry fish, fried dry chilies, (taste yummy) you can boil white vinegar, but you’ll probably want to follow with the lemon water to get rid of the vinegar smell! I never thought of these problems when I lived at my parent’s country house in Gampaha.

One other person told me, when he moved into this flat, the guy before him smoked in it and well it smelled. He bought two air purifiers that were on sale for pretty cheap and in a couple of weeks there was no more smell. They worked really well and are great in the kitchen. He said, I don’t have a range hood thingy, so this is what I used.

I talked to another person in a near by apartment then he said he got a smell problem too. He said, “Oh my God, the smell of bacon lingers for days”. Sad to say, most range hoods in apartments don’t really do anything. What has worked the best for me is to generously sprinkle baking soda over the carpet, sweep it in with a broom and then vacuum it up the next day.

I met someone else and she told me, “We are a newly married and we live in a studio with a loft bedroom, when we cook the smells rise up and linger in our bedroom. Sometimes it’s nice, the bed smells like chocolate chip cookies or cream brulee, but sometimes, like last night, it smells like seafood and onions”.

I am not a huge fan of air fresheners since I don’t really want to just add another smell; I want to eliminate the first one. So what I normally do (after definitely taking out all remnants of the meal so it isn’t the trash stinking up the place) is to boil a couple of sliced up lemons on the stove. This will generally do the trick without adding another scent to the air. If it’s a really strong smell like when we made donuts at home and realized that deep frying anything seems to smell like fried fish, I put out cups of white vinegar overnight and it absorbed the smell by morning. The scent of the vinegar only hangs around for a couple of minutes and then it goes to work neutralizing the offending odor.

Solving Odour Transfer Problems in Your Apartment

One of the most common problems experienced by the occupants of apartment buildings is the transfer of objectionable odour from one apartment to another. Tobacco smoke and cooking odour top the list of complaints. Other complaints are often heard concerning the transfer of noise, light and sometimes pests such as dogs barking at any time of the night or day. Sometimes it reminds me the film, 101 Dalmatians.  The smell of car exhaust from underground parking garages can also be problematic. The question is, “Are you really missing your country living”?

Now let me make it quite clear, you or anyone cannot start firewood stove cooking in apartments, so don’t think of Kussi Amma’s cooking. You have to adapt to new ways of cooking using gas and electric fires. They are quite convenient, easy but may be expensive to use unlike firewood stoves. Time and time again, I reminded these types of energy do not come for free; they tend to go up in prices from time to time, it’s quite normal. What we have to do is to find some kind of energy efficiency or energy saving techniques, if you don’t want to know, “Carry on Charlie”.

I mentioned before that energy efficiency cooking is also called Green Cooking. One cannot do this kind of cooking with least conductivity materials such as earthenware pots and pans which are quite normal type of cooking vessels in Sri Lanka. We also had these kinds of pots and pans when we employed servants like kussi amma Sarah who cooked on firewood stoves in the country home. The kitchen was in the far end of the house, most of the smoke and curry smells went through the windows and the chimney but this cannot be done anymore in new kind of dwellings, now kussi amma Sarah is unemployed.

My scientific energy saving or green cooking can be taught even to a 12 year old child. The reason is, cooking involves fire and the children must be systematically taught how to handle fire safely like in chemistry practicals. I have seen in some British TV chef’s cooking demonstrations to children, sometimes they show off by setting fire purposely to cooking pans. I am sure that kind of acts entertains but discourage them handling fire. Well, if anyone is prepared to learn my technique, they are welcomed but if anyone is prepared to challenge to disprove that it does not save energy, please let me know. I practice what I preach, not a hypocrite. Now I can help the people to save some money on energy by adopting my kind of cooking, certainly it will cut down some smell in cooking. I mentioned earlier as well that, if you are not careful about the escaping volatile cooking aroma, others might smell you like a mobile kitchen. Now the apartment smells then you also could smell the same. Certainly you need to change the style of cooking?

Please remember, the less fuel is burnt, less carbon dioxide and monoxides are added to the atmosphere that means can control the carbon emission. The aromatic chemical molecules are responsible for any spicy smell. In cinnamon along there are over 12 complicated organic chemicals, chemical analysis have identified sixteen volatile organic compounds in cloves. The chemical structures are far too complicated to describe here. “You want more”? When you add about 10 or more different spices in cooking chicken curry, “polos curry” who could count the number of complicated chemicals formed and escape when you open the lid to taste the salt content. Who would argue that some of these chemicals would not deposit on your hands, face, hair and clothes? So ladies, next time before you open the boiling chicken curry, think twice before you open, mind the cooking smell!

These are so minute, volatile chemicals and cannot be totally avoided but can be brought them under control to some extent applying the thermodynamic laws. If there is any excess smell in the house or apartment, it can be easily removed using the extractor fan. However my scientific energy saving cooking certainly cuts down energy wastage, controls the cooking smell and cuts down carbon emission. Why not any authorities find out more about my energy saving scientific cooking, if I was disproved then the challenged money is paid to them, the question is if I was right do I get any kind of appreciation? Any comments please perera6@hotmail.co.uk

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