The Big Stink

Something very odd happened in London today. It started with a bit of a funky odour when I got to Kings Cross. Even though I have a very sensitive sense of smell, at first I couldn’t quite work it out. I was just thinking it smelt like a mix of rotten feet with a splash of stale armpit thrown in when it hit me – falafel!

Obviously, being a cumin-hater, my first thought was a definite ‘Eugh!’, but I thought it fair enough – it was getting on for lunch time and there are people who like that sort of thing.

A couple of air-conditioned hours later (still in Kings Cross) and the smell on the street had been turned up to full whiff. I got on a bus and it was there too – stronger if anything. I had one of those horror moments, wondering if it was me who was emitting the smell, but a subtle sniff of my pits and a quick body check for squashed falafel gave me the all clear.

I hopped off the bus at Oxford Street and falafel-pong was everywhere. I sent a text to a friend to find out if the smell was just my brain playing tricks on me. I got a reply saying “maybe that’s why I’ve been wanting one all day”. So it wasn’t just me – something had obviously planted the seeds of falafel-desire in my friend’s head.

As I headed west, the smell remained. And when I got home, I was greeted with more falafel mixed with the smell of lilies.

So where has this vile stench come from? Is there a Falafel Festival going on somewhere in town that no-one warned me about?

They say every city has its own smell. Maybe falafel is London’s official odour and the lack of rain over the past few weeks has allowed the stench to fester and envelop the whole city. Grim!


6 responses to “The Big Stink

  1. King’s Cross station is located right above the course of the old River Fleet — which runs from Hampstead Heath to Blackfriars. It’s now all covered over and part of the storm drain network — so with all the dry weather it’s quite conceivable that something does actually stink down there and the odour is spreading through the tunnels with no water in them to wash it away.

  2. But it was everywhere yesterday. It seems to have gone this morning though – thanks to the few drops of rain – but I know it was there yesterday because my work room still stinks of it (the door was closed overnight so couldn’t get fresh air). Very odd.

  3. So falafel’s defining smell is not so much cumin as rank old cooking-oil..? Yuuum.

  4. I went with a friend to buy samosas today. There were also falafel on sale.

    I looked at the ingredients: there was no cumin but a lot of coriander. A large minority of people find coriander – the taste and smell – unpleasant; I know at least two such people. Are you one of those?

    They usually complain that coriander tastes soapy. Might be a genetic thing to do with enzymes in the saliva.

  5. I think if you make them properly there’s meant to be cumin in them. I had a flatemate once who was always making them and stinking the place out. It was like a teenage boys bedroom.

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