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:
- Harold McGee’s Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells
- If your copy of On Food and Cooking is also illegible from use—fear not! Copies abound, but be sure to grab the 2004 revision
- McGee blogs at the Curious Cook
- Get a whiff of 19th-century olfactory history in our interview with historian Melanie Kiechle
- Imagine the future of food in our changing climate with novelist Alexandra Kleeman and chef Jen Monroe
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.
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