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When a head injury obliterated twenty-two-year-old Molly Birnbaum’s sense of smell, it destroyed her dream of becoming a chef. Determined to reawaken her nose, she bravely sets off on a quest to rediscover the scented world. On the way, she seeks out everyone from former poet laureate Robert Pinsky to neuroscientist Oliver Sacks. A moving personal story packed with surprising facts about the senses, Season to Taste brims with the scents of Molly’s world—cinnamon, cedarwood, fresh bagels, and lavender—lost and ...
When a head injury obliterated twenty-two-year-old Molly Birnbaum’s sense of smell, it destroyed her dream of becoming a chef. Determined to reawaken her nose, she bravely sets off on a quest to rediscover the scented world. On the way, she seeks out everyone from former poet laureate Robert Pinsky to neuroscientist Oliver Sacks. A moving personal story packed with surprising facts about the senses, Season to Taste brims with the scents of Molly’s world—cinnamon, cedarwood, fresh bagels, and lavender—lost and finally found. In Season to Taste, Molly describes an ineffable, but indispensable, layer of life.
A culinary-minded journalist reckons with the loss of her sense of smell.
After graduating from college, 22-year-old Birnbaum decided to change course and pursue her passion for cooking as a vocation. Little did she know that her life's direction was to change yet again that summer. Just weeks before she was to start at the Culinary Institute of America, the author was hit by a car, an accident that broke her pelvis in two spots, snapped the tendons in her knee, fractured her skull and, most devastatingly for the author, obliterated her sense of smell. After a month, when she was utterly unmoved in the face of a freshly baked apple crisp, Birnbaum realized the gravity of her situation. In her debut, the author attempts to come to terms with life after her trauma. She movingly depicts the nearly ineffable plight of the anosmic, both from her perspective—"without smell, the world around me seemed suddenly strange and stagnant. [...]How do you describe the scent of nothing?I wondered. It was strong; it was blank. It was completely overwhelming"—and that of others she encountered in researching the condition's various forms. Ever hopeful that her sense would return and eager to understand the roots of her malady—the impact's force had severed the olfactory neurons connecting nose to brain—Birnbaum consulted with Oliver Sacks, numerous olfactory specialists and even a flavorist and perfumers. Her story includes probing introspection, especially as smell relates to emotion, alongside passages of sweeping journalistic discovery of all things olfactory.
A brave, unflagging memoir.
Excerpted from Season to Taste by Molly Birnbaum Copyright © 2011 by Molly Birnbaum. Excerpted by permission of Ecco. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted August 8, 2011
Season To Taste is Molly Birnbaum's memoir about losing her sense of smell in a traumatic car accident. At first look losing your sense of smell may not seem like a truly horrible loss, but more of your brain, memory, and taste are controlled by scents then you realize. At the time of the accident Molly was immersed in the restaurant world, getting ready to enter culinary school, and thrilled to have finally found her place. Without a sense of smell food became a bland, largely tasteless obstacle to happiness. Molly chronicles her journey back to taste and smell through exhaustive academic research and personal experimentation. She meets with famed neurological expert Oliver Sacks, visits a commercial flavor lab, learns more than you would think possible about the human sense of smell, and takes a perfume class. Through it all she never gives up hope that one day she will regain her elusive sense of smell.
Molly Birnbaum comes across as an engaging and likeable young woman, the most important characteristic of a successful memoir. From the beginning I was rooting for her, hoping her life would return to normal and she would be able to pursue her dreams of becoming a chef. Season to Taste is a great foodie book with some sublime descriptions of the food Molly cooks or dreams of smelling and tasting. It is also an exhaustive exploration of the research that has been done to date on the human sense of smell. Sometimes the scientific side comes across dry and those parts can drag a bit. I did enjoy her descriptions of various smell disorders that have occurred and her experiences and discussions with the fellow sufferers she meets. It was astounding to me that people can be overwhelmed by phantom smells or can recover their sense of smell one, individual scent at a time. Season to Taste is a unique and interesting book that was worth reading.
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Posted August 11, 2012
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Posted February 8, 2012
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