Toast? What’s YOUR Feel Good Food Smell?

Professor Tim Jacob, at the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University, has found that the smell of toast is Britain’s most loved food smell. A recent survey by the Flour Advisory Bureau found that we are a nation of toast lovers with a whopping 99% of us putting our hands up to loving toast.

Apparently, toast triggers memories and evokes feelings of happiness in what is called the ‘Proust Effect’ – where a smell is firmly linked with pleasant memories, in this case those of family life.

At a time of year when 2 million students are heading to university, with tight budgets and, for many, limited cooking experience, toast is likely to feature heavily in their diets.

Professor Jacob explains, “Most families eat toast for breakfast and the distinctive smell of toast delivers a feel-good factor by evoking comforting childhood memories. It is entirely conceivable that students can sniff their way back to happy childhoods with the aroma of toast – delivering a warm, feel- good factor across countless breakfast tables and student hall of residences throughout the nation.”

He concludes, “It is clear that toast reminds us of family. Breakfast, the meal where most toast is consumed, is a family meal and this association stays with us. Toast is used as a treat and to cheer us up, so when we leave home toast recalls family breakfasts and is therefore comforting. Psychologically, a process of conditioned association occurs to link toast and the smell and flavour of toast with key moments in our lives – family moments.”

image by Steven Brisson (creative commons license, some rights reserved)

The top ten toppings for toast are butter (or margarine *shudder*), cheese, egg, jam, marmalade, baked beans, Marmite, bacon, peanut butter and honey.


So, I have two questions for you:

What are your favourite toast toppings?

What is your favourite food smell – the one that triggers feelings of happiness and comfort in you?


Students looking for some inspiration might like to visit Beyond Baked Beans, a site bursting with easy recipes, budget tips and simple cooking techniques for those cooking on a budget.

Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!
26 Comments to "Toast? What’s YOUR Feel Good Food Smell?"

  1. Patrícia

    My favourite topping on toast is butter. Loads of it, of course.
    My favourite food smell is the smell of bread baking. Nobody baked bread at my place when I was a kid, so it's not like I am connecting with childhood memories, but it's something I do now and love doing.

  2. Fiona Beckett

    Great post, Kavey and thanks for the link to the site. Favourite toast topping? Grilled cheese without a doubt, preferably in the form of a rarebit. And favourite smell? Bacon frying. The one thing guaranteed to get me up in the morning!

  3. Suelle

    Favourite topping for toast – butter. Butter and honey run a close second! I don't like eggs or beans ON the toast – real toast lovers don't want soggy toast!

    Favourite comforting food smell – beef casseroles, I think, which is strange, as I hated my mother's beef casseroles! Perhaps I've been away from my childhood home so long that my 'comforting' memories come from my early adulthood.

  4. The London Foodie

    I like my toasts with loads of butter and nothing else. There is something about the combination of toast, butter and black coffee that is so fantastic for me.

    The most comforting food smell for me has got to be of bread or cakes being freshly baked. Yum!

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  5. The Shed

    I'm usually a butter-only type but occasionally indulge in a smudge of marmite or some plum jam, and have been known to top buttered toast with leftover curry. Elegant it isn't, but it tastes so good!

    My favourite smells have to be freshly ground coffee, and roasting pork. Preferably drinking one while waiting for the other to cook…

    Those and freshly chopped lemongrass/lime leaves…heavenly.

  6. Mr Noodles

    Toast just needs butter. That said, add some bacon and a fried egg and we have a great start to the day.

    Favourite food smell has to be star anise/five-spice. It brings back childhood food memories.

  7. Dave

    Fave topping for toast is butter (lots of it) and scrambled eggs.

    A smell of my childhood is onion rings. Don't ask, but it is comforting.

  8. Kavey

    Some great choices, everyone, thanks for joining in!

    Toast toppings: butter, Marmite, cheese, tomatoes, peanut butter, butter and honey, patum, plum jam, leftover curry, bacon and fried eggs, scrambled eggs, jamon serrano…

    Smells: roasting meat, bread baking, bacon frying, cakes baking, beef casseroles, freshly ground coffee, freshly chopped lemongrass and lime leaves, onions frying in butter, star anise and five spice, onion rings…

    Speaking of peanut butter those of you who love it (like me) are you one of those weirdos who butter and then peanut butter or is the peanut butter oily enough for you on it's own?

    My favourites, incidentally:

    Toast – 1) Butter 2) Peanut butter 3) Butter and strawberry jam 4) Butter and Marmite

    Smells – 1) Roasting meats 2) Baking bread and cakes 3) Freshly made coffee, even though I don't drink it

  9. Christine Hawthorne

    Toast toppings – mine would have to be 'real' butter – not that which pretends to be 'butter', marmite, peanut butter, poached or scrambled egg.

    Smells – would have to be roast dinners cooking, mainly beef though, bread, soup, coffee, freshly chopped herbs, bacon – I could mention many more!

  10. Kavey

    Christine, yes yes yes to real butter. Margarine is banished in our house, never ever buy it. Our staff canteen uses it by default so I always have to specify real butter, and they'll use butter from individual packets instead of the yuck in their spread bowl.

  11. Laura Nickoll

    Definitely lashings of cold butter, and peanut butter (yes, butter on butter), or runny honey.

    Favourite food smells: bacon, chicken roasting, cakes baking.

  12. Greedy Diva

    It has to be Vegemite (not Marmite unless I am down to my emergency stash) or avocado.

    Toast or the smell of roast lamb. Or onions frying. Or a sausages on a BBQ. Or the smell of champagne leads to much happiness

  13. meemalee

    My guilty pleasure is cold toast with a slight crunch slathered in butter that's still visible and Marmite.

    When I'm feeling poncy, I like a hot toast, melted butter and Earl Grey confit jam.

  14. Kavey

    Top quality French butter definitely a good choice!

    Vegemite is just wrong… so bland and kind of more greasy than Marmite and uuugh! 😉

    Meemalee, that IS poncy! 😉

  15. Wen

    Toast topping > butter, sugar and powdered cinnamon. The toast has to be HOT

    Fave smell > Tough choice! Satay grilling on charcoal by the sea. Smoky caramelly spicy meat with a whiff of salty air. This is the smell of where I grew up in Singapore.

  16. tashar

    My favorite smell is that of onions carmelizing in my mom's cast iron skillet. The sweet/pungent aroma of the onions combined beautifully with the increasingly cool breezes as summer gave way to autumn. Since those onions were the basis of many curries (daals as well as meats), the aroma of onions was a weekend morning fixture. (Mom was back at work by the time I was in middle school, so she focused on cooking ahead for the family on Saturday mornings).

    Fantastic question! :o)

  17. Valerie Gillman

    Toast has to be good bread with good butter. Fav smell cooking-anything lamb. I’m actually drooling!


Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *