Photo: Al Barry/Three Lions (Getty Images)

Every morning, The Takeout staff e-gets together on our laptops and spend a few moments talking. How are the kids? How’s the pup? What are you cooking? What’s that smell?

Yes, you read that right. On this, the 441st day of The Takeout’s existence, the topic of kitchen stink finally entered the conversation. It was prompted by Gwen Ihnat’s story—we’ll just let you read it below—which then prompted a conversation about the worst smell ever to come out of our kitchens.

Are we running out of things to write about? Are we hallucinating because of the -22 degree temperatures in Chicago? Are we high? Maybe a little bit of all three. In any case, stink blog right now:


What if that demon from Hereditary lived in my kitchen canister?

Photo: A24

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Yesterday morning, my son was making oatmeal. He opened a canister on our kitchen counter, hoping for brown sugar, then hurriedly closed it again. It probably wasn’t even open for a full second. Yet the stench from whatever was in that particular container (note: not brown sugar) permeated the entire house, into our hallways, individual bedrooms, the basement.

Granted, our house is no stranger to bad smells, which is what enables my Yankee Candle addiction. My kids’ socks, my husband’s hard hat, various Tupperware containers in the fridge with leftovers far past their prime. But this was different. This odor was like its own evil entity ready to possess our home. Like Lucifer himself had just the worst food poisoning bout of his life in our bathroom. Or I’d forgotten about a full Diaper Genie for about a decade.

Curiosity killed my nose, and my sanity, as once my son fessed up to the bad canister smell as the origin of our home plague. I opened it again (Fool!) to find the actual source. It was leftover duck rillettes my husband had made. For Thanksgiving. A dawn of realization struck his face. “Ohhhhh,” he remembered. “I guess this one is on me.”

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Washing out the canister was discussed for a less than a minute before we decided to chuck the whole thing altogether. Unfortunately, we are in the middle of a polar vortex right now (maybe you’ve heard?). I feared that putting the offensive rillettes outside would draw every vermin and woodland creature (we’re right by the Chicago River) from miles around, now frozen and starved for sustenance. So I wrapped the infernal canister in about five garbage bags before placing it in the garbage near the back door. It’s just sitting there now, taunting me.

Still, it got me to thinking, Takeout colleagues and commenters: What’s the worst smell you’ve ever encountered in your own kitchen? [Gwen Ihnat]


Punched in the face by week-old chili smell

Photo: gradts (iStock)

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Greetings from a person who has never owned a dishwasher! My partner and I try really hard to keep on top of dishwashing in our very tiny kitchen, but especially after cooking a big meal, a portion of what needs washing will get stacked or set aside so that we have room to dry. A year or two ago my partner made chili in our dutch oven, and when setting it aside, put the lid on; because it was sitting in the place we usually keep it, I assumed it was washed and let it be. Fast forward a week or so, and there was a strange smell in the kitchen. I couldn’t find it, thought, “ah, well, time to cook,” and popped lid off the dutch oven. Reader, it was like being punched in the face by a smell. All those rotting meat molecules exploded into the air. Never again. (Someone please buy me a dishwasher and also an apartment that will accommodate a dishwasher.) [Allison Shoemaker]


Never cook an oily fish in a small apartment

Photo: AlexRaths (iStock)

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When I was still a bachelor, my cooking was a bit more adventurous. I remember sampling a piece of seared escolar—the fish was so buttery, I immediately went to my fishmonger and bought a half pound. This was before anyone told me consuming large quantities of escolar does gnarly and horrifying things to your insides (which makes its way outside), but it also stinks up your home somethin’ fierce. Any oily fish for that matter, such as mackerel, can leave a long-lasting and unappealing fishiness in your house if cooked improperly.

For me, the smell permeated my apartment for two weeks. Even with Febreeze and every window opened, I could not get rid of it. In the interim, if I happened to bring a date home, that person would opt for a 180-degree turn the moment we entered the front door. You can vacuum your home, tidy everything, put on a nice record, but it turns out a terrible, all-pervading smell is a deal breaker. [Kevin Pang]


Tell us your gross-smelling food stories. The more horrifying, the better.

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