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.