As many of you know, I’ve been writing about the sense of smell since 2005. It was then, in the crack of my skull against the windshield of a quickly-moving car, that my olfactory neurons were damaged and I lost the ability to detect the scent of brewing coffee, freshly baked bread, or a ripe bag of garbage. For a while, I lost the ability to smell anything at all.
I began this blog before that, however, when I could think of little more than the kitchen, sauté pans and paring knives. While scent was important to me as the gateway to flavor, it hardly crossed my mind that without a working nose a sip of coffee was simply hot and bitter and that a bite of chicken similar to one of cardboard. I had wanted to be a chef, and I began this blog to write about my work prepping and washing dishes in an upscale Boston restaurant. I had hoped the job would be the first step in many on my way to the professional culinary world. I wanted to chronicle the journey.
Without smell, however, my ability to perceive the world around me changed and, with that, so did my plans. I’ve written about it all along the way.
My fascination with scent began out of necessity. After the accident I suddenly realized that its absence sapped the texture from both physical experience and memory. It implied the power of what was once there. In the last four years my sense of smell, as I’ve written here, has slowly returned. While it is not completely restored—skunk sometimes smells of almond biscotti and I often can’t tell the difference between sage and thyme—I’ve watched the details painstakingly crawl back into my sensory landscape. Throughout this process, my interest in smell has grown far deeper.
And now I’m very happy to announce my current project, which I’ve been working on for quite some time but that only recently became official. I’m writing a book.
“In Search of Smell,” an olfactory memoir exploring the neuroscience, psychology, and social history of smell through the lens of my own story of loss and regain, will be published by the HarperCollins imprint Ecco. I’ll be reporting and writing for a little less than the next year. I’m very excited.
I’m not sure how this will change ‘My Madeleine.’ I plan to keep writing as I have been—about food, about smell, and about how they intersect. But perhaps now that my days are filled with research and interviews on scent, this blog will veer more towards food. Perhaps not. I just wanted to let you all know what I’m up to. And if you have any ideas or any stories to share with me, please let me know. I’m looking forward to learning so much more.