DEAR HARRIETTE: I live in a garden-style apartment with eight units. Recently, a middle-aged couple with their 20-something daughter moved in below me. I introduced myself to them and welcomed them to the building. Just about every night, I smell something highly spicy like Indian food, and it fills my apartment. It is coming from my new neighbors. The odor is offensive to me. We live in a warm climate, and the air conditioning is normally on. This does not help. How do I diplomatically approach this subject with them? -- Suffering Smells, Miami
DEAR SUFFERING SMELLS: This may be one of the biggest challenges you will face, because you are offended by smells that define that family's culture. I'm sure they have no idea that the aroma of their foods could be anything but alluring to anyone who might smell them. Interestingly, the same thing could be happening for them, depending upon the type of cuisine you prepare in your home.
That said, the best that you will likely get is a compromise; if you speak to them about the strong smells emanating from their kitchen and ask if they can diminish them in any way, they may agree not to cook with the strongest particular spices on a daily basis. But the smells are not going to go away. When broaching the subject with them, you can mention that you realize that they are cooking their native foods, which are strong for your nose. Ask if they will consider using a fan that extracts smells and pushes them out the window.
You may want to invest in one yourself. A home remedy that some have found useful is putting white vinegar in a dish on your counter to help absorb the smell. Citrus candles can help, as can Febreze candles.