The ‘rancid’ food odor that’s dividing the internet

Do you smell what I smell?

A disgruntled partner has been arguing with their significant other about a “rancid” smell coming from their dishes — the boyfriend swears it’s wafting from every piece of crockery they own but the Reddit user who posted about it can’t get a whiff of the mystery aroma.

“He says it happens whenever we cook with meat or eggs and the plates, bowls and glasses aren’t washed properly afterward,” the Redditor explained in a now-viral post. “Half the time he has to put the dishwasher on twice.”

The boyfriend, who is Arabic, said the closest translation for the smell in English is “rancid,” although his partner, a Westerner, thinks that word would more appropriately describe rotting meat — something the user claims they’d “definitely smell.”

The rotten scent emitted from dishes—even when clean—is a stench apparently Westerners can’t sniff out.
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“I thought he was imagining it,” the Reddit user continued. “Then we had some friends over and we put aside a glass he said smelled rancid. The weirdest thing happened. All his Arabic friends said they could smell it. But my friends (Western, like me) could not.”

In an attempt to get to the bottom of the scent, the user frantically took to a Reddit forum to seek help, and writer Lina Mounzer reposted it on Twitter this week.

reddit thread
A Reddit caused a stink online after questioning their partner’s sense of smell.
Reddit

“I knew her partner was Arab & what the smell was before I reached the end of the question,” she stated, arguing that Westerners “cannot smell zankha” — the Arabic word for the aroma — “even when it’s dizzying.”

“Zankha” has been roughly translated as an off-putting smell that lingers on cups, plates and bowls that is often a result of meat or eggs, especially when their remnants mix with hot water. But apparently not everyone can detect the putrid scent.

Receiving more than 25,000 likes and 1,000 replies, foodies in the Twitter thread shared their thoughts.

“It’s that smell when one washes eg egg plates with hot water first? Yes it’s a thing, now I also have a word for it, thanks!” one woman tweeted.

“They’re used to it,” another saidin reference as to why Western noses can’t detect the smell.

“I’m half Arab so I can smell both sides of this, but I’m definitely grossed out by zanakha, especially post-eggs,” someone else wrote.

“OMG that’s so true. My partner is French and everytime I mention the ‘zankha’ smell after putting eggs in the plate, he looks at me wondering what I am talking about because he says ‘I don’t smell anything,’” one person shared.

sweet house
The “zankha” smell can only be remedied by washing dishes in cold water and vinegar.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Yes — this smell is gross & especially seems to cling to glasses & cups,” someone else stated. “Wild that there’s a specific Arabic word for it. I’ve always described it as an ‘eggy’ smell, not rotten but gross. I would never use rancid to describe it.”

To get rid of the unwanted odor from dishware, users suggested rinsing crockery with cold water and vinegar before placing them in the dishwasher — a helpful hack just in time for the holidays.

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