Season to Taste: The Kitchen Reader Book Club

A couple of weeks ago I re-found a blog called the Kitchen Reader. It’s a genius idea: an online book club that reads only food writing. I love the idea of a book club. I am the type of person who not only loves reading but loves discussing books. But getting out to a book club is not an option with a toddler at home so this online version is perfect.

Not only that but, as you may have guessed from the name, they only read food writing. Could there be a better book club?

I wasn’t sure how I would find time to read & then review this month’s book (Season to Taste by Molly Birnbaum) so even as I write this I have yet to tell the Kitchen Reader people that I’m on board (I’ll do that before posting this though). However, thanks to the e-book version, I managed to read, no inhale, the book in a week.

It was a brilliant read: fact-filled, well written and researched with an edge of suspense. I won’t ruin that suspense for you, but a brief summary is Birnbaum loses her sense of smell in an accident and her dream of becoming a chef seems ruined. The book chronicles her journey to discover more about her condition and to figure out what to do next.

I loved reading about the science of smell. As Birnbaum points out, how we smell is not fully understood, and yet it is such a powerful sense. She explains that there are the links between olfaction and the emotional centre of the brain, which account for smell’s relationship with memory (i.e. the way that scent can bring back memories very vividly).

And it is such an amazing relationship. My toddler discovered an old film container with American change inside it one day during the week that I was reading this book. Explaining the various coins to her reminded me of my home country generally. But when I leaned down and smelled the coins in my hand, that warm metallic tang took me straight to hot summer days and walks up to the local Seven Eleven to get a slurpy. I never would have paired change to those slurpy runs, but there it was linked by the smell of coins in a warm hand.

Coins weren’t the only thing I found myself compelled to sniff whilst reading this book. One evening I stood over chopped carrots & beets sniffing to discern the different aspects of their scents. It was amazing to notice the green, earthy, and sweet tones of a fresh root vegetables. I’m sure Birnbaum would describe them more compellingly: her descriptions in the book are outstanding.

This book was packed with fascinating information (i.e. there’s a link between feeling depressed and a weaken sense of smell), as well as being exciting to read (the science of smell is well woven with personal episodes from her life which give a forward momentum to the story). But it has also reminded me to stop and smell the world more.

Thank you to Katherine Martinelli who chose this wonderful book. The other members’ reviews can be found at the Kitchen Reader site.


12 thoughts on “Season to Taste: The Kitchen Reader Book Club

  1. Welcome to our group! I’m so glad you enjoyed the book and had time to write about it as well. I was surprised about all the ways smell impacts me – a lot of which I had taken for granted before reading this book. I feel a new appreciation for my nose!

  2. Pingback: Season to Taste: March Round-Up | The Kitchen Reader

  3. What a thoughtful review! And welcome to the virtual book club! I officially joined a year ago, but because I’ve been busy, this is only the second book I was able to pick up and finish. And I thought it was a delightful read. I absolutely treasure my sense of smell now more than I did before. πŸ™‚


  4. Glad to hear you enjoyed your first book, and you take gorgeous photos! Funnily enough, I didn’t have the urge to smell things while reading this – probably because my nose is sensitive enough already. Though I’m typing this while I drink a glass of wine, and it just occurred to me that like Molly, I have a really hard time putting a name to a scent in wine. You know how in wine tastings, you might smell notes of vanilla, or apricot, or cherry, or whatever – but all I smell is grapes. πŸ™‚ I think to become a professional sommelier, you need to go through somewhat similar training to perfumers. In retrospect, I’m surprised she didn’t cover that in her book.

    • Thanks Aileen!
      Yes, I think sommeliers must go through much training in describing scents. It always amazes my how they can sniff and come up with so many different scent-words. I can smell a few but I find it hard to break down what seems to be a single scent into many. Of course that’s just what the perfume course Molly took was all about. As she says it’s a case of practicing.

  5. I’m constantly smelling things that remind me of someone or some memory from my past, but I never really thought about the science of it before I read this book. It was fascinating, wasn’t it?

    Welcome to the club!

  6. Hi, glad you’re enjoying the book club, I’m only in it for the last 3 months and am loving it. I’m reading books I’d never have got around to reading. Really fun review, looking forward to your next month’s review…Marian

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