Smarty Pants Podcast

Welcome to the Osmocosm

Harold McGee explains the science behind a universe of smells

By Stephanie Bastek | October 14, 2022
Durian, the king of fruits—and smells (Flickr/luzge)
Durian, the king of fruits—and smells (Flickr/luzge)

Harold McGee’s 1984 book On Food and Cooking—revised extensively in 2004—changed modern cuisine, inspiring the molecular gastronomy of Ferran Adrià as well as the weeknight creations of humble home cooks everywhere. McGee’s latest book, Nose Dive, is a companion encyclopedia to On Food and Cooking, and it focuses on the most overlooked of our senses: smell. When we bring a fresh oyster or a glass of wine to our lips, what makes us detect minerality or grassiness? When did the molecules that we smell first appear? What happens to these volatile molecules when we transform our food, whether through cooking, fermentation, or some other process? Listen to McGee explain this universe of smells—which he dubs “the osmocosm”—and you’ll never breathe in the aroma of fresh-baked cookies the same way again.

Go beyond the episode:

Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.

Subscribe: iTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • Acast

Download the audio here (right click to “save link as …”)

Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes! Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Comments powered by Disqus