Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World's Smells (hardcover)
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From the author of On Food and Cooking, Kitchen Arts’s best-selling book ever, comes a fascinating, engagingly readable take on on the science of smell. Much of the book is concerned with aromas from the world of food, but even in chapters that are not, McGee’s approach enlightens us about the sense most closely linked to taste.
The world of scent is so complex and pervasive that McGee has coined the word osmocosm (from osme, the ancient Greek for smell), to describe the vast array of volatile molecules that we and so many other creatures perceive. Our brains learn to associate a particular combination of molecules with some food, object, or event but the very complexity of of these combinations means sometimes there are references to other scents and objects that range from elusive to non-perceptible. Methyl sulfanyl hexanol, which is part of the aroma of passion fruit, is also a component of human underarm scent.
Nose Dive is a rich and erudite work that remains fully accessible even to those of us who struggled in high school chemistry. It is supported by an extensive list of selected references, as well as a strong index. And it’s highly enlightening for anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of how we perceive the world around us.