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Stuff Stinks   3 comments

The sense of smell is rich in clichés: “Wake up and smell the coffee;”
“stop and smell the roses;” “relatives and fish smell after three days.”
In her book, Season to Taste, Molly Birnbaum writes of her life
without the ability to smell, so everything associated with scent
renders those sayings not just tired, but impossible.

Months before Birnbaum was to enter the Culinary Institute of Ameri-
ca she was struck by a car and suffered multiple injuries, including
losing her sense of smell which is known as anosmia. As she comes to
grip with the repercussions of this loss, she relinquishes her dream to
become a chef and latches onto the quest of learning about all things
olfactory.

Birnbaum’s writing is forthright, conversational yet occasionally bord-
erline academic. She experiences grief, anger and panic over the now-
missing sense she once took for granted. Aromas, odors, scents, what-
ever the name given, are, of course, everywhere. They evoke memories,
they provide contexts, they affect taste. With this in mind, Birnbaum
interviews numerous experts in the field of olfaction. She meets others
with anosmia. She studies at a perfume school in France, and visits flavor
design labs. Through these experiences, she relearns to identify smells,
falls in love, and reminds readers that this often under-rated of the
five senses really does enhance life in many, many ways.

The scientific information is interesting, but the best parts of Birnbaum’s
story are the personal elements she shares. That’s why it’s exciting when
she begins to cook again.

Season to Taste

Three Bookmarks

Ecco/HarperCollins, 2011

304 pages

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3 responses to “Stuff Stinks

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  1. Sounds really interesting, is it available in the uk?

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