Nose diving into the invisible world of smells

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Ten years ago, food writer Harold McGee started researching flavors for a new book. He discovered early on that taste is important in flavor, but we only detect a dozen or so different ones, while our olfactory sense can distinguish thousands of different aromas and odors. Wondering why food and drink could often echo the smells of inedible and undrinkable things such as the ocean, horse stables, or flowers, McGee shifted gears. He discusses releasing scents when adding heat — as in caramel making with raw sugar — and discovering different smells of herbs such as Genovese basil. It’s all in his latest work, “Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells.”

Harold McGee classifies aromas and smells in his latest work, “Nose Dive.” Photo courtesy of Penguin Press



Evan Kleiman