I’m asked this question almost immediately after I’ve explained that I was born without a sense of smell. And the answer is this: Yes, sort of. I heard a statistic many years ago (so I’m not sure if it’s very reliable) that smell only affects roughly 30% of taste. Again, not sure if that is accurate or not…
Now, since I’ve never been able to smell I really don’t have a point of comparison. But I can give you an overview of what I can taste based on conversations with other people who can smell (olfies, as some anosmiacs like to call them).
I can taste general differences (sweet, sour, bitter, fruity, etc.)
So yes, I can tell the difference between coffee and tea, chocolate and carob (how is carob a substitute for greatness?), etc. What I can’t distinguish between are the subtleties of foods and drinks. Starbursts, for example, all taste fruity to me (yes, even the yellow ones). I can’t distinguish between Cherry or Strawberry, though oddly enough I am drawn to my favorite color, red.
Also, I can taste the difference between boxed wine and “real” wine, red wine and white, but I can’t appreciate other flavors in it like, say, a hint of oak (I’ve never understood that one!).
Starbucks coffee has never tasted “burnt” to me (it’s wickedly strong though!), and overheating milk (can you really burn milk?) in cappuccino doesn’t change the taste to me.
I taste a lot by texture.
The texture of food is very important to me since many dishes have a lot of different ingredients and spices that kind of cancel each other out. For example, if you pair cinnamon with any stronger spice, I won’t be able to taste the cinnamon; however, alone I can taste cinnamon just fine. I can’t taste garlic. I can’t taste nutmeg. I can’t taste a lot of the powered stuff. I love curry. Real curry and the grocery store powered stuff. Anyway, because of my inability to taste a lot of spices, I think, I tend to “feel” food more so than simply taste it. I can’t stand chili! The texture reminds me of one of the side effects of flu season or forgetting the rule “liquor before beer” (if you follow…yuk!).
Oh, and if it feels like baby food…forget it!
Since I can’t smell food cooking, I am never appetized by it. If someone talks about food, or I see food…then yes, I will get start to get hungry. Sense memory baffles me. I am always intrigued when people say that a certain food cooking reminds them of their grandmother.