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An aspiring chef's moving account of finding her wayin the kitchen and beyondafter a tragic accident destroys her sense of smell
At twenty-two, just out of college, Molly Birnbaum spent her nights reading cookbooks and her days working at a Boston bistro, preparing to start training at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. She knew exactly where she wanted the life ahead to lead: She wanted to be a chef. But shortly before she was due to matriculate, she was hit by a car while out for a run in Boston. The accident fractured her skull, broke her pelvis, tore her knee to shredsand destroyed her sense of smell. The flesh and bones would heal...but her sense of smell?And not being able to smell meant not being able to cook. She dropped her cooking school plans, quit her restaurant job, and sank into a depression.
Season to Taste is the story of what came next: how she picked herself up and set off on a grand, entertaining quest in the hopes of learning to smell again. Writing with the good cheer and great charm of Laurie Colwin or Ruth Reichl, she explores the science of olfaction, pheromones, and Proust's madeleine; she meets leading experts, including the writer Oliver Sacks, scientist Stuart Firestein, and perfumer Christophe Laudamiel; and she visits a pioneering New Jersey flavor lab, eats at Grant Achatz's legendary Chicago restaurant Alinea, and enrolls at a renowned perfume school in the South of France, all in an effort to understand and overcome her condition.
A moving personal story packed with surprising facts about our senses, Season to Taste is filled with unforgettable descriptions of the smells Birnbaum rediscoversfrom cinnamon, cedarwood, and fresh bagels to rosemary chicken, lavender, and apple pieas she falls in love, learns to smell from scratch, and starts, once again, to cook.
Molly Birnbaum is the recipient of the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship in Arts and Culture from Columbia Journalism School. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, and ARTnews magazine, and she writes the popular food blog My Madeline.
“After reading Birnbaum’s smart, lovely book, readers will be reminded to savor their next meal, each fragrant bite.”
“Tantalizing. . . . A pilgrimage out of devastation, toward reclaiming the dream of being a chef. . . . Where [Birnbaum] ends up will surprise you, much as it did her.”
“Rich and insightful. . . . A veritable feast for the reader.”
“Powerfully explores the science of smell and its ties to emotion, love and even memory. . . . A truly mouthwatering read.”
“Moving and informative.”
“Fascinating and vivid. . . . Packed with information and a great read to boot. I was smitten.”
“A culinary-minded journalist . . . movingly depicts the nearly ineffable plight of the anosmic . . . alongside passages of sweeping journalistic discovery of all things olfactory. A brave, unflagging memoir.”
“A Summer Hot Read.”
-New York Post
“A fascinating, illuminating and heartwarming read and a revelation of how aroma is woven, in intricate and complex patterns, through the tapestry of our lives.”
“Molly Birnbaum writes with great curiosity and depth, reawakening in us all the sense of taste that we take for granted.”
-Amanda Hesser, author of The Essential New York Times Cookbook
“Molly Birnbaum’s fascinating book takes her--and us--deep inside the mysterious world of scent. Her writing about this unseen force is fresh, smart, and consistently surprising. If this beautifully written book were a smell, it would be a crisp green apple.”
-Claire Dederer, bestselling author of Poser
“A wonderful book about life’s unexpected turns, about love and its complexities, and about the ineffably mysterious human brain. I couldn’t stop telling people about it, while I was reading it. It will make you see your nose, your life, and your most important decisions in a whole new way.”
-Maile Meloy, bestselling author of Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It
“Molly Birnbaum’s fascinating journey, told with charm and compassion, is ultimately a story of triumph. A book for food lovers, sensualists, and all of us in search of our true heart’s desire.”
-Kim Sunée, bestselling author of Trail of Crumbs