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Eau de Whopper: Chick bait du jour
by Gene Owens

Burger King wants us guys to go around smelling like hamburgers. There are worse smells, but will this one attract the girls?

The fast-food chain has launched a new men's body spray called "Flame," which it advertises as "the scent of seduction, with a hint of flame-broiled meat." You can buy it for $3.99 a vial through Burger King's website. Fries and Coke come extra.

Much as I like the Whopper, if I were a bachelor trying to hook up with a chick, I don't think I would choose Burger King for a romantic rendezvous. I would look for a joint with an uppity French name and a beverage menu with a lot more cachet than Coke or Pepsi or a gloppy shake.

Burger King may have its gender roles reversed. The cliche says that the stomach is the way to a man's heart, not to a woman's. But even if the sense of smell is gender-neutral, I'm not so sure that Eau de Whopper is the most tantalizing route to romance.

I love to awaken to the aroma of bacon frying and coffee brewing, but those smells affect my taste buds, not my libido. The smell of good food brings to mind the maternal charms of Mama and Grandma, not the seductive charms of Venus. And if you could bottle the smell of food and use it as a love potion, I don't think you would start with hamburger. Fried chicken, maybe, or a Porterhouse grilling on the deck. But a hamburger -- even the kingly Whopper -- does not make for romantic fare.

Fact is, you'd have to be extremely careful in selecting a proper culinary fragrance to lure a chick into a meaningful relationship.

If I were casting about for a romantic fragrance from the table (and I'm not, thank goodness), I would probably select a wine with a subtle yet distinctive bouquet. I chose a fume blanc, served in a place called La Maison du Gourmet, when I popped the question to Miss Peggy. There were escargots on the menu too, but she turned up her nose at snails. The French name didn't enhance the aroma. The wine must have done the trick. The name means "white smoke," but it wasn't smoke from a Burger King kitchen, and she said "Yes."

The essence of a good Bourbon also may be good at awakening the libido, but only when employed sparingly and discreetly. The smell of whiskey loses its appeal quickly after the booze has been ingested. Women tend to be turned off by liquor on the breath.

Beer is even worse. One of my favorite brews is Heineken's, which I often order when I'm eating at a casual-dining emporium. But I have a confession: The beer's distinctive aroma reminds me faintly of the fragrance of a skunk. If the smell were a little stronger, it would be a turn-off. But the European brewer knew just when to stop. Miss Peggy prefers domestic lagers, but she would regard a splash of Michelob Ultra on my shirt as a sign of overindulgence, not of romantic attraction.

Hamburgers are among the least offensive of kitchen odors, but the aroma doesn't wear well once the meal is over. Same goes for other foods. Eau de Fried Chicken stales fast, and once you've turned off the heat under the skillet you need to plug in the room deodorizer or light up the scented candles. Even ham and bacon lose their appeal after your last cup of coffee.

Moreover, certain kitchen odors aren't very appetizing to begin with. The odor of fish frying does nothing to arouse man or woman, so don't look for Long John Silver's to follow Burger King's lead. Shrimp is delectable on the platter, but you don't want to be down-wind from it during the preparation. Liver and onions? Don't even go there.

When it comes to seductive kitchen aromas, the Vegans have it over us meat-eaters. There are few smells that warm the heart of man more than the aroma of muffins, cakes and pies browning in the oven. On a cold winter morning, the lure of warm gingerbread and hot coffee is enough to start my heart beating before the dog hassles me for her morning walk.

Miss Peggy's cornbread also beckons warmly from her oven, and the kids refuse to eat cornbread dressing made by any other hands. I agree with them.

But there are some odors you want to stay away from. I would not want to go on a date with the smell of sauteed onions clinging to me. And collards? No thank you. They may be good with chunks of fatback or ham hock thrown in, but their odor won't make your sweetie want to snuggle up to you or dance cheek to cheek.

When we were much younger, a flood washed through downtown Roanoke, Va., where we lived at the time, leaving vials of Lagerfeld, Oscar de la Rente and Aramis caked with mud. Miss Peggy, who can whiff a bargain from a mile away, scooped them up for next to nothing. She rinsed off the mud and suggested that I use them in place of my customary Old Spice. We may still have them around. I gave up fragrances long ago, after I discovered that so many people suffer from allergies triggered by the sweet smells.

Now that I've settled in with my lifetime companion, I no longer need the services of Lagerfeld, Oscar or Aramis. Whoppers seem not to have the allergenic effect that those fancy colognes have, but I prefer to restrict their odor to quick stops along the Interstate.

I'm not sure I'd want to go through the drive-through at Hardee's with the odor of Burger King's "Flame" wafting from my car window. Somebody might throw a Thickburger at me and I'd be reeking of Angus for the rest of the trip.


Gene Owens has been around the Southern journalistic scene for 48 years. He has been senior associate editor of The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., and editorial-page editor of the Roanoke Times in Roanoke, Va.

As senior editor for Creative Services, a management consulting firm in High Point, N. C., he ghosted more than a dozen published books for professional clients. For the past nine years he has been assistant managing editor, political editor and columnist for the Mobile Register. Register readers named him their favorite local columnist, and readers of the independent regional magazine, Bay Weekly, agreed. He was runner-up in the regional Green Eyeshades competition among writers of humor columns.

He has been on the board of directors of the National Conference of Editorial Writers and was editor of The Masthead, the NCEW’s national quarterly. He is in semi-retirement in Anderson, S. C.

Read more of Gene's entertaining columns:
Polaroid fades into history
A Tribute to Johnny Cash
Roy Moore at the Courthouse Door
All about Gene and Greasepit Grammar
Greasepit Grammar: Misplaced modifiers
Greasepit Grammar: Inertia can get you
Greasepit Grammar: Drinking and dranking
Greasepit Grammar: A Pronominal grand slam
The Wal-Mart Paradox
Taking a week off from retirement to do nothing
Raspberry ants are coming
Flocking South with the snowbirds
Juicy Fruit will gum up the mole works
Dan Rather and the Texas truth
Putting on the dog!
The scars turned to flowers
If only our forefathers had used attack ads
Decent 'dogs
Thoughts from the Southern road
Sic the goats on your kudzu

Write Gene Owens at 317 Braeburn Drive, Anderson SC 29621 or e-mail him at WadesDixieCo@aol.com

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