Monday, August 31, 2009


Four years ago yesterday I smashed the windshield of an oncoming car with the back of my skull. I broke my pelvis, tore the tendons and ligaments in my left knee, and lost my sense of smell. I don’t remember much about the following weeks. Or months, really. I went from working in the kitchen of a restaurant, on the eve of beginning culinary school, to recovering on a bed in my mother’s living room, enveloped by a haze of pain killers and depression.

This year, yesterday, I baked a cake. It was a simple butter cake. I used brown sugar and eggs, cinnamon and baking soda and flour. I poured it in a pan and I nestled a few neat rows of deep purple plums, cut in half, on top. I popped it in the oven, and when it came out into the kitchen a half hour later the whole room smelled sweet and warm, like fruit and caramel and autumn. A deep purple, nutty brown autumn.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how lucky I am. I lost my sense of smell in a car accident four years ago. With it vanished my ability to taste and my plans to be a chef. But since then, it has slowly returned. It has returned in a curious and fantastic manner, one that ignites wonder almost every day. In fact now, after all these years of thinking and stressing and working on it, I think I can smell better than I ever did before.

I’m lucky because I experienced a traumatic accident, terrified my family and could have died. I could have lost so much more. But I didn’t. I’m here. I’m writing a book about smell and all that it means. The experience, in fact, has given me more than it ever took away. If I lost anything, it was the sense of immortality that at age 22 I really felt was mine. I lost some naivety, and the tendency to ignore the small things in life.

I baked that plum cake in the kitchen of a large, wood-planked house in Woodstock, New York. I’m here for the month of September, quietly tucked away in a small studio to write. There are nine others on the property —writers, painters and composers—all doing the same as part of a residency program up in the hills. It’s so quiet at night I can hear the crickets. I can hear water trickling from down the road. It gets so dark that the moon illuminates the trees, shimmering through the leaves like diamonds, and it’s not hard to imagine all sorts of ghosts waiting just behind the creek.


Rikki said...

I cant wait to read the book!! I think of it on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

m, your writing, as always: stunning.
Soak it up in Woodstock...gosh, if you are cooking the other writer's are stoked! Looking forward to your book...xo

Amanda said...

I hope that you are slowly but surely getting back on your feet. Feeling immortal at the age of 22 and having that ripped away from you can be quite shattering. Plus, the long term physical effects from an accident like that can be hard to recover from. I wish you the best of luck, and look forward to seeing more posts!

Molly said...

hey, thanks all! i really appreciate your support. and now, back to being a hermit in my studio...


Jennifer said...

Cheers to you, my dear. I hope you're enjoying peace, calm and inspiration during the residency program. Best of luck with your writing!

Glimmer said...

So amazed and impressed you did this. For years I have been pining to make the apricot almond wedding cake in the Silver Palate Good Times Cook Book. But my oven was old and testy.

So, I got a new oven. I was waiting for my husband to go out of town because my kitchen is small and he has to be in it every half hour making meals and snacks for himself or he gets anxious-annoying. I was practicing on the fabulous Restaurant Eve birthday cake (Alexandria, VA), which kept coming out a hot mess. Discovered the top coil was NOT coming on during preheating-bake cycle! Now have to get new oven fixed-replaced.


At least I found your blog and can enjoy it in the meantime. And savor in my mind the baking of the apricot almond cake and the impromptu pretend wedding reception I'll have when that does happen. A nice excuse for a party.