Soap and wine have a lot in common. Both are obviously necessities, haha. Both are made from natural materials grown perhaps not too far away, or perhaps all the way across the world. Both have basic economy versions available on the market and also more choice, luxury vintages. Some people pay hundreds of dollars for one bottle of wine that lasts a few hours, so our bar of soap that lasts a month is, by comparison, a bargain! Both need to age a bit before they are fit to use. But while fine wine only gets better as the years go by, fine soap is ready in about a month, and past its prime in a year or so. So maybe the better metaphor is to compare soap to cheese!
Bad-Scented Soap. But why?
I was having dinner with an old friend the other day. It wasn't anything too fancy, but still a nice place: one of the better pizza restaurants in Portland, Oregon, in fact. It was the type of pizza that would go well with a decent beer or a more expensive glass of wine. I ordered beer and my friend ordered wine. She spent a lot of time deciding on the right wine, swirling the samples around the glass and asking the server a lot of questions. A few minutes later the drinks arrived.
After a couple sips of beer, I noticed an off-scent: somewhat citrus-like, but also very acrid. My friend let me try her wine and I continued to smell the off-smell. It was the soap from the bathroom! It was the kind that comes in a dispenser and turns into foam when you squeeze it into your hands. The lingering scent of it was more than enough to notice whenever I lifted a hand near my face. I find it very interesting that people can spend so much time, attention, and money on achieving the perfect food/wine combination, but something like the soap can toss such a discordant note into the composition. Not only did the smell clash with the pizza and wine, but it also smelled quite bad on its own!
Unscented Soap, or the Best Essential Oils?
One possible solution is to stock unscented soap, so that it doesn't contribute anything either way to the dining experience. An even all-natural and unscented castille soap still has its own mysterious array of fatty and fragrant notes, but it certainly doesn't leave any extra perfume on your hands. Another solution would be to stock a soap whose essential oils would complement the cuisine. Of course, sliding farther down this slippery slope, so to speak, might land one in a whole new league of of food/wine/soap combination ridiculousness.
I like to imagine my soap will someday be regarded with a little more scrutiny than your average two buck chuck. In all seriousness, the smell of the soap may matter to people who pay attention to the details of their sensory experience, especially when it follows you back to the meal.