Preparing to become a chef, recent college graduate Molly Birnbaum spent her nights savoring cookbooks and her days working at a Boston bistro. But shortly before starting at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, she was hit by a car, an accident that fractured her skull, broke her pelvis, tore her knee to shreds, and destroyed her ability to smell—a sense essential to cooking. Devastated, Birnbaum dropped her cooking school plans, quit her restaurant job, and sank into depression.
Season to Taste is the heartwarming story of what came next: how she picked herself up and set off on a grand quest to understand and overcome her condition. With irresistible charm and good cheer, Birnbaum explores the science of olfaction, pheromones, and Proust’s madeleine. She meets leading experts, including writer Oliver Sacks, scientist Stuart Firestein, and perfumer Christophe Laudamiel. And she visits a pioneering New Jersey flavor lab, eats at the legendary Chicago restaurant Alinea, and enrolls at a renowned perfume school in the South of France. Through Birnbaum we rediscover the joy of smell—from the pungency of cinnamon and cedarwood to the subtle beauty of fresh bagels and lavender—fall in love, and recapture a dream.
"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
"I had a hunch that Molly Birnbaum could tell a rich, engrossing, and deeply intelligent story, but what I didn't know is that I would learn so much from it - about strength, about persistence, about the resilience of the human body and mind. This is a book I won't soon forget."
- Molly Wizenberg, author of A Homemade Life
"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, author of Poser
"When Molly Birnbaum lost her sense of smell in a brutal accident, it was a tragedy for her plans to become a chef, and yet it was a strange kind of gift, too. Deprived of one sense, Molly drew on all the others, and on her memories of aroma, to become a masterful and moving writer. And we, her readers, are the ultimate beneficiaries of her great heart and her vast talent. Season to Taste is a memoir, an inquiry, a rumination, and a love story, too, delivered with a poet's touch and a scholar's restless intellect."
- Samuel G. Freedman, author of Letters to a Young Journalist
"Season to Taste would be a lovely food memoir, if it were only that. It would be a fascinating book about the sense of smell, and about a loss that might have undone someone less brave, curious, and persistent than Molly Birnbaum. But it's also something more: it's a 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, author of Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It
"Imagine discovering the scent of cucumber, skunk, and even your own brain. Season to Taste reminds us how much our sense of smell grounds us, is part of our identity and, without it, we are bereft of our most profound memories and desires. 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 Sunee, author of Trail of Crumbs