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 means to flavor, cooking, and daily life. Continue Reading
I spent two months in Jerusalem in 2000 as part of a religious study abroad experience. While our focus was on Old and New Testament Biblical studies, I also got a healthy dose of Jewish and Palestinian history and religious information. I loved my time there and I loved the people I met – Jew, Muslim, and Christian.
When I found Palestine, Joe Sacco’s journalistic report of the intifada circa 1992, I thought I’d experience another graphic novel, this time an account of a place I’ve lived. But the world Sacco explores is not the world I visited.
Sacco’s account focuses on the horrible conditions of the Palestinian refugees in Israel, the torture of the Isreali Defense Forces, and the reasons why the youth felt the need to rise up in rebellion in the intifada. While I can’t say I loved the blatant anti-Jewish slant of the book (which was to be expected), it was a fascinating experience to read it and I learned a lot that I hadn’t realized.Continue Reading
I disliked Three Cups of Tea; my mother loved it. Read our counterpoints.Continue Reading
One Saturday, my husband laughed out loud while listening to something on his headphones.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
” ‘Maggots’ is an ugly word; she’s using ‘haciendas’ instead!”
My husband doesn’t normally laugh out loud while listening to audiobooks. This was new. After a bit more coaxing, I found that he was listening to Stiff by Mary Roach, which I had wanted to read, until he started talking about maggots.
“It’s about cadavers,” he said.
I was disgusted. I couldn’t read that!
Later, I entered the kitchen, where he was listening without headphones. (Yes, in the kitchen.) The narrator now discussed shooting cadavers with bullets.
“That’s disgusting!” I said, reaching for my lunch. “I won’t be giving my body to science!”
“Well, you better believe I will be!” he responded.
This shocked me. I stammered out an objection, and he reiterated his wishes. And yet, despite my disgust, I couldn’t put in words why I would want to see him dead in the casket. (We’ve been married for only two years, and maybe just the thought of him dead was most disturbing.)
He told me I couldn’t say no to medical research, organ donation, or human dissection until I knew what would happened, be it decay, cremation, or the other things.
Enter Stiff:The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. Yes, I gave in: I listened to it too. It stops being nauseating fairly quickly; you get used to it. And after listening to this (wonderfully narrated by Shelly Frasier) audiobook, I’ve been converted:
Please, don’t bury me! There are too many other, cooler things that could happen to my body after I die!Continue Reading