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Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way
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Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way

3.41  ·  Rating Details ·  657 Ratings  ·  142 Reviews
“A rich, engrossing, and deeply intelligent story….This is a book I won’t soon forget.”
—Molly Wizenberg, bestselling author of A Homemade Life

“Fresh, smart, and consistently surprising. If this beautifully written book were a smell, it would be a crisp green apple.”
—Claire Dederer, bestselling author of Poser

Season to Taste is an aspiring chef’s moving account of finding h
ebook, 320 pages
Published June 21st 2011 by HarperCollins e-books
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Community Reviews

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Oct 17, 2012 Greg rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Season to Taste has a fascinating topic, a hook-y personal narrative, and a good writer at the helm, but I am still angrily unhappy with it. Actually it pisses me off. Why go to all this trouble, all this research, all this emotional tsuris if you're just going to make a sloppy mess of the writing? Everything is there. Birnbaum has everything she needs to write this exact book, except the good version. Argh. It pisses me off.

First of all, I love the topic. The senses have always intrigued me. In
Jeff C. Kunins
Mar 23, 2017 Jeff C. Kunins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
fascinating chef tale + memoir + deep dive on asnosmia

got this because was a chef memoir, got pulled in and engaged by the super thoughtful and reasonably robust investigation Molly went on to understand the science and current remaining mysteries about our sense of olfaction, anosmia, and more.
Jun 15, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bea2011
When I was pregnant, one night I returned home from work to discover that our house smelled of garlic. I was surprised that my husband had been home long enough to get dinner started, and asked him what he was cooking. He looked at me quizzically -- he'd just gotten home and hadn't so much as thought yet about what we were having for dinner. Nor had we made anything with garlic within the last week....and in any case, he couldn't smell a thing. After a good long while, we determined that I was s ...more
I'm about half way through Season to Taste and the book is about to be due at the library. Rather than finish it, I think I'm just going to give up on this one. As someone who loves to cook but had a limited sense of smell, I thought I'd get a lot out of Birnbaum's memoir. She was an aspiring chef, but completely lost her sense of smell when she was hit by a car while jogging. Birnbaum does a great job of really zeroing in on the sense of loss and isolation that came to her after losing her smel ...more
Melissa Prange
Dec 19, 2011 Melissa Prange rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Season to Taste is a semi-interesting memoir about one young woman's journey to come to terms with the impairment of her sense of smell. The book is at its best when describing food with luscious adjectives, but too often it gets bogged down with the author's inability to structure her thoughts.

Season to Taste constantly jumps back and forth between Molly Birnbaum's everyday struggles with regaining her sense of smell and the science behind how the brain processes scent. I found the author to b
Jun 15, 2011 Kathi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
After hearing/reading about this book from a handful of my most trusted sources, I jumped into it with high expectations. I enjoyed reading it, but I don't think it quite lived up to my hopes.

It was unsurprising to me that the book evolved from Molly Birnbaum's blog; her writing style kept me interested in short bursts, but I found it difficult to read too much in one sitting without putting it down for a while. At times, the narrative seemed a bit tedious; it seemed like there were some parts
I had such high hopes for this book. What DOES someone do after suddenly losing all sense of smell? I couldn't wait to hear how Birnbaum found her way.

But after getting about three quarters of the way through, we suddenly agreed that it was just becoming a tedious account of various doctors' visits and reports with only brief interesting moments.

After months of agony when she could not smell anything at all, Birnbaum began to be able to smell some things.

    [...]I knew that if damaged, the se
Julie Davis
May 03, 2011 Julie Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having been admitted to the Amazon Vine Program I was eager to find a book to try that I would not normally come across. This one, in which Molly Birnbaum relates her loss of smell due to a head injury and intersperses her story with delving into the science of smell, filled the bill. What makes Birnbaum's loss of smell, and subsequent almost complete loss of the ability to taste, all the more painful is that she was set to go to the Culinary Institute of America to begin training as a chef. Wat ...more
Jul 26, 2011 JudithAnn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Molly Birnbaum was looking forward to start studying cooking at a prestigeous cooking school when she was in a car accident and lost her sense of smell.

Really worried, she realized that chances were slim that she would be able to fulfil her dream to become a cook. She wrote to doctors and scientists that study olfactory science to get some idea of the possibility of ever recovering her smell.

In the book, she alternates descriptions of her daily life with her findings. First, she gives an outline
Margaret Small
Nov 04, 2014 Margaret Small rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As one of those unfortunates who was born without a sense of smell. I found this very interesting. Unlike those who have lost this sense due to accident of illness, I have no memory or even any idea of what smells are like. This book has given me great insights into just what I've been missing all my life, which left me feeling quite sad for a bit. Her discussion of how hard it is to describe scents, for which there is no real vocabulary, unlike sound or taste, helped me to understand this inabi ...more
Sep 21, 2015 Brina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
I picked up Season to Taste when I saw the blurb about it on the back of another book I just read. As one who enjoys cooking and as someone who feels she has heightened senses, the topic fascinated me. Molly Birnbaum lost her sense of smell while in an accident. Before the accident she was an aspiring chef and had a scholarship to Culinary Institute of America. Then, she had to put her cooking dreams and other life plans on hold.
This memoir is about food, love, and science. Why are people attra
May 29, 2012 Dana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book fascinated me -- because of the depth and breadth of her research into the senses of smell and taste, and because of her ability to make me feel like I was standing in her kitchen, sitting at her table and walking with her as she, in the words of the book's sub-title, lost her sense of smell and found her way. I will never take my sense of smell for granted again.
Jul 22, 2011 Julie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was good, but not what I was expecting. I thought it would be mostly about cooking, but a lot of it is about research on taste and various people who contribute to that field. While that is interesting, I think it could have been more succinct as I found myself getting bored at times once I was past her accident.
Aug 21, 2011 Dana rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This writer should be more discriminant when writing. Many times I felt that I was rereading previous parts of the book (even on the same page) It is as though she wrote three different versions of each sentence, but then couldn't pick one and so left them all in... Still an interesting topic.
Jun 07, 2011 Aimee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the way Molly mixed in her experience as well as research details. It was very interesting and made me certainly appreciate my sense of smell!
Jul 05, 2012 Kiwiflora rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my much younger days I was in a flat with a nurse. She was a terrific person, great flatmate, lots of fun. I remember asking her one day why she always cooked the same thing when it was her turn to cook. She told me that it was the one of the few dishes she knew how the finished result would taste/smell as she had lost her sense of smell in an accident getting off a bus on her way to work one day some 18 months or so prior. Wow. This was something I had never come across before. But I never r ...more
Sep 04, 2011 Kathleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I heard Molly Birnbaum on the Leonard Lopate show on NPR. Didn't pay much attention to it, but remembered the title. Molly was hit by a car while jogging. Multiple injuries including destroying her sense of smell. She was planning to attend the Culinary Institute of America, but had to delay/cancel her entrance (she never attends). She is a graduate of Brown University, majoring in art history, but discovers her interest in cooking/baking. After college, she works (starting at the bottom ...more
Feb 27, 2017 Jane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this, however the writing was just too tedious and tiresome. I couldn't connect with the author despite fully wanting to as I picked up the book. As a foodie and former food writer, my expectations were high that this would be a celebration of food.

The plot: The author loses her sense of smell in a car crash a year or two out of college and in the midst of training to become a chef. Knowing the premise, I was hoping the author would be of the plucky sort, and the novel h
I was intrigued with the premise of this memoir from the moment I heard about it - Molly Birnbaum, a chef-in-training about to start classes at the Culinary Institute of America was hit by a car and lost her sense of smell. How can you cook if you can't smell?

I think in my head I was expecting this to be more like a nonfiction Left Neglected, talking about an obscure brain injury from the insider's view. What was unexpected was how much research Ms. Birnbaum did and how that was sprinkled throu
Dec 21, 2011 Joy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not sure how I found out about this book, but it sounded right up my alley - cooking, science, and an interesting topic of a memoir. I'd like to give the book three and a half stars, but since I can't do that I'm rounding down because it's not a four-star book by my definition.

The topic of the author's memoir, while unfortunate, is nonetheless fascinating - after she was hit by a car while jogging, she loses her sense of taste completely. As an aspiring chef and baker, this is a tremendous blow
Aug 08, 2011 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 obstacl ...more
Aug 09, 2011 Amanda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The reason why I picked up this book was personal - while Birnbaum's car accident caused her loss of smell, for me an accident during dental surgery brought about my loss of feeling, including taste, on exactly the left half of my tongue. Seeing things from Birnbaum's perspective made me think about my own loss and if I could exchange it for a different sense loss would I want to?

Sometimes I would get annoyed while reading because Birnbaum described how bland food tasted, that she could only get
I started this book thinking it would be more about an established chef losing their sense of smell, which I thought sounded challenging and possibly career ending. Instead, the pages contained the story of Molly a young girl getting her start in the restaurant world. Even though this book is non-fiction, the story had the makings of a great fictional tale of loss and struggle.

She was only weeks away from starting at a culinary school and was learning the ropes of a restaurant’s inner workings a
Ellen ekgpoetry
Jul 24, 2011 Ellen ekgpoetry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, non-fiction
Season to Taste is a journey through the sense of smell. That sounds a little boring though, something this book definitely is not. The olfactory system is complex and scientists themselves don't yet know as much about it as they do other senses. Birnbaum lost her sense of smell due to head trauma, the result of being hit by a car. At the time she was preparing to go to culinary school and train to be a chef. With no smell, there is no taste. This loss was life-changing for her.

When I was a chil
Nov 28, 2011 Jessica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cooking-food
Molly Birnbaum was working in a restaurant and planning to go to culinary school when she was hit by a car while out running. She broke her pelvis, severely damaged her knee, and fractured her skull. It took awhile, but she healed from the physical trauma, but due to the skull fracture she lost her sense of smell. This is crucial for a chef and when Molly realized it might be gone forever she spiraled into a depression. Being a chef was her dream and now what? Eventually she starts to revamp her ...more
Apr 25, 2013 Amber rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The author of this book sounds like a really sweet person. I was compelled to keep reading because I wanted to see if she got better, so that says something positive about the book. Also I wanted to learn about the science of smell, since I lost my sense of smell too, and she did include some good info (though not as much as I would have liked).

That being said, this book is horribly written. It is repetitive. The language is cheesy. The timeline is confusing - she jumps around from something hap
Rebecca Reid
Just months before Molly Birnbaum was to enter the Culinary Institute of America to fulfill her dream to become a chef, she met with a violent accident. Although she escaped with her life, in addition to other physical wounds she had lost her sense of smell. Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way (Ecco, July 2011) is Molly’s story of finding her place in the kitchen again. But Season to Taste is far more than a personal memoir: it’s also a journalistic study of what smell ...more
May 24, 2012 Blair rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
If I could give it a 3.5, I would. There were certain parts of this book that I loved - the perfume discussion was fascinating, the descriptions of smell. There were parts that were horribly boring - some of the beginning doesn't stick with me at all. Overall, it was fascinating though. I added a lot of items to my to-read list. Most of all, I found myself really liking Molly Birnbaum. She took the biggest challenge of her life, the destruction of all she knew and wanted, and succeeded in unders ...more
Helene Ryding
I was recommended this book by a friend foodie who knew I had lost my sense of smell. It was useful to learn a bit more about how smell works and can be lost and regained, though it seems it is too late to recover mine now 20 or so years later. It was useful to learn about shared fears of dangers not detected and phantom smells. For me the most interesting part was she regained her smell but found it difficult to relearn the names and to identify smells, showing there are multiple parts to the s ...more
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“we smelled the blotter of lavender a second time. I was surprised to find that it had changed. Most materials do, Fauvel explained. Some burst into the nose immediately and leave just as fast, ones like lemon, like orange, like ginger. Those, she said, are called top notes. Middle notes, like geranium and rose, linger but not for the long term. Base notes like sandalwood or musk stick around a while.” 0 likes
“She wanted any words but the one from the label: lavender, the only one I knew. I waved the strip under one nostril and then the other, inhaling again. I thought of the bright purple bars of soap in my father’s home, the ones collected by my stepmother, Cyndi. I thought of the pillow that had slowly deflated at Alinea those months before, the one under a plate of deconstructed rhubarb, a scientific coda to a symphonic meal.” 0 likes
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