Season to Taste (Molly Birnbaum) – Review

Season to taste : how I lost my sense of smell and found my waySeason to Taste by Molly Birnbaum
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir
Location: East Coast
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Harper Collins,2011
ISBN: 978-0061915314
320 Pages

Passionate and driven Molly is only months away from beginning her education at the American Culinary Institution when she is hit by a car that not only leaves her hospitalized for months, but also damages her olfactory sense, leaving her with anosmia (the inability to smell). The inability to smell leaves Molly unable to taste food, and therefore unable to enjoy food. She does not enter the American Culinary Institute. Instead, she invests her time researching the history, causes and traits of anosmia and olfactory disorders. She goes back to school for a masters in Journalism, and she constantly fights battles against depression when her lack of sense of smell alienates her from the rest of society.

I thought this was a wonderfully penned memoir. Never did I feel that the author took on a “poor me, pity me” stance. She was very straightforward about her depression and how she overcame it, slowly and with the encouragement of family and friends. Over time, Molly managed to regain certain smells, and it was this struggle to identify scents that I found the most intriguing. I loved reading about her trip to Grasse to study with perfume students to learn the intricacies of smell, to her first scent after the accent, and to her self-discoveries about her personality and emotions along the way.

My only complaint is that the book is a mash-up of her blog posts and essays. She jumped around chronologically, so it was somewhat difficult to figure out where she was, especially when in one essay, she was in France, in the US and again in France in the span of 3 paragraphs.

I did enjoy reading about all the research and statistics tied to anosmia and olfactory disorders. This is definitely something that’s not in the mainstream media and certainly not something that really crossed my mind before. Molly’s struggle with food and her cooking ability were very inspiring. Food was her bridge back to her old life, back to the pre-car accident Molly who driven and full of motivation.

The book is equal parts memoir, love of cooking, and study of the olfactory system of the human body. Foodies will enjoy this book because they will most likely run promptly into the kitchen and start sniffing at the spice-rack. Others will enjoy Molly’s travels and scientific research.

Book 25 of 2011

Find this book at your local library

Book 2

8 responses to “Season to Taste (Molly Birnbaum) – Review

  1. Cooking and perfume are passions of mine. I really need to get hold of this book!

  2. As I’ve aged I’ve noticed that was sense of taste and smell as dwindled somewhat. I can’t imagine the joy of not having those senses at all. Memory helps a little such as yesterday when I sniffed a home-grown tomato. My heart goes out to the author.

  3. So many childhood memories are tied up with certain smells for me…the Christmas cookies my grandma made every year until I took over; the lilac bushes in our backyard growing up, and the smell of burning leaves in the fall…I can’t imagine losing that ability…

  4. This book sounds fascinating. I just recently started reading memoirs and realized I love them. I always thought they would be boring. Combine that with the love of cooking and I think this book would be right up my alley.

    Thanks for the great review.

  5. I can’t even imagine what it’d be like to not be able to smell and thus not be able to enjoy food — one of my passions. Too bad the book jumps around a bit, but it still sounds worth the read.

  6. I don’t know if I can handle not being able to smell. This sounds like an interesting book.

  7. This sounds like a really interesting book. I’ve thought about related issues recently when I learned about Grant Achatz, famous Chicago Chef, and his battle with tongue cancer.

  8. I got this at BEA and I”m really excited to read it. Sorry it reads like blog posts…but the info sounds very fun. I’m still looking forward to it.

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