Forage – Stop to smell the flowers… then eat them, too?

Forage for your food, lately, or too scared to pick your own? There’s a whole world of edible plants growing around us, but if the closest you’ve ever been to foraging for food is scrumping apples (or more recently, scrabbling at the red-stickered items in your supermarket’s Reduced section), you need this beautiful book…

Yes, it’s another book we’ve eagerly added to our Fragrant Reads shelves, but although the publishers of Forage: Wild Plants to Gather and Eat say ‘Anybody can enjoy the increasingly popular back-to-nature activity of foraging’, the truth is, very few of us feel confident enough to start picking some of the foliage we see on our daily walks. Thanks to author Liz Knight’s clear descriptions, and the stunning botanical illustrations of Rachel Pedder-Smith, the identification is made far easier and reading this, you’ll really feel encouraged to explore and diversify with wild ingredients.

What’s more, it’ll certainly make you look at flowers in a different way. From honeysuckle cordial (which sounds like something the fairies would drink in A Midsummer Night’s Dream), pickled cherry blossoms, linden leaf madeleines, dandelion petal cake to damson and rose petal preserves, the accompanying recipes sound like a feast for all the senses.

 

Forage: Wild Plants to Gather and Eat by Liz Knight, illustrated by Rachel Pedder-Smith [Laurence King Publishing]
Buy it at Waterstones

There’s such an elegant and understated confidence to Forage, and no wonder – Liz has a wealth of experience, having spent years learning the ways of foraging, founded Forage Fine Foods – a business she runs from her kitchen in rural Herefordshire – where she teaches courses on foraging and cooking wild ingredients, and also sells some delicious foodie finds. You may also have seen her appearing on the eight-part series of Channel 5’s Escape to the Farm with presenter Kate Humble. But if you’ve the idea that Liz was born in the bosom of the country and learned such skills at her mother’s knee, it certainly didn’t come naturally.

 

 

‘I grew up in normal street in a normal town just outside London,’ says Liz, and it turns out she gradually grew to love freshly picked food having tasted the tomatoes from a neighbour’s greenhouse, and later, worked in care homes and talked to the older residents. Explains Liz:

‘These people knew food; they taught me how to make butter, what cuts of meat to buy and how to cook it, what leaves to nibble on and what food should really taste like…Thanks to them I got a fire in my belly about the wild, wonderful food of Britain and that fire turned into Forage.’

Nowadays we’re becoming used to seeing ‘foraged food’ celebrated on menus of fine dining restaurants, but really Liz wants everyone to feel confident enough to try their hand at picking ingredients growing wild locally. Because Liz’s life now truly is spent searching the local hedgerows in search of scrumptious finds, and we’re sure reading this book will sew some more seeds of the passion for foraging. Now you won’t only want to stop to smell the roses (and wild cherry blossom, linden trees, honeysuckle, gorse…) but eat them (once safely identified!) too.

By Suzy Nightingale

Nose Dive by Harold McGee – a joyous celebration of our most under-appreciated sense

There are some books that really transcend the boundaries – appealing not only to those already immersed in the subject, but to the wider public – and Nose Dive by Harold McGee is most definitely one of the best we’ve read. So wonderfully connecting the dots between the worlds of smell and taste, it’s no wonder the Sunday Times named it their 2020 Food Book of the Year, calling it ‘A joyously nerdy study of how and what we smell, the effect on our appetites and much more.’

Having worked with some of world’s most innovative chefs, including Thomas Keller and Heston Blumenthal; McGee has dedicated over a decade of his life to our most overlooked sense, and here gives us not only the facts about the chemistry of food, cooking and smells; but widens this (and encourages us to widen our nostrils) by explaining the science of everyday life and the various whiffs we may encounter along the way.

Think of this as a manual to re-connect you to your nose, heightening your enjoyment and understanding of food but, much more than that – enriching every single part of your life. Along the way, McGee introduces us to the aroma chemicals that surround us, which make up our entire world and colour the way we experience it. It’s a joyous book that should be read by cooks, perfumers, fragrance-addicts and absolutely anyone who has been struck by a smell, wondered what it was and wanted to know more.

Something we especially loved was how clearly this information is laid out – so it can be easily referred to. Each smell mentioned is laid out in a chart of its name/species, the component smells to identify it with, and the molecules that create those smells. Gleefully, some have a column respresenting ‘Also found in’, so we learn, for example, that Some Smells of Cat Urine are like blackcurrant, which is caused by methylbutyl sulfanyl formate, and can also be found in beer and coffee. More fragrantly, many flower varieties are described, along with plant pongs, animals, humans, food (raw, cooked or cured) and the scent of space itself.

Managing to be both scholarly yet immediately accessible, it’s his passion for that subject that really sporings off the page and makes you want to run out into the street and start smelling things with a new appreciation for what you might find. Whether he has you bending to smell wet pavements and marvelling at ambergris, exploring the fruit-filled Himilayan mountain ranges, literally stopping to smell the roses or cautiously approaching a durian fruit… this is a celebration of something the majority of us take so foregranted – until we have it taken away from us. Witness the huge rise in smell-related news stories, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Perhaps now the media are focussing on our sense of smell at last, and realising how important it is to our enjoyment and understanding of every day life, there will be further books like this to enjoy a wider readership than they may have previously. And maybe that will lead to proper funding for the much-needed further research we still so desperately need. Now that’s something to celebrate!

If your intrest in pongs has been piqued, perhaps you’d like to perfuse the many other books about smell and the senses we have reviewed for our Fragrant Reads bookshelf…?

By Suzy Nightingale

We’ve found the most relaxing, flower-filled films ever…

You can practically feel your blood-pressure drop as you watch these short but so-exquisite flower-filled films on Instagram – but can looking at pretty pictures of nature ACTUALLY (scientifically, not merely anecdotally) lower your stress levels? Apparently so…

A dear friend of mine recently posted on Facebook to say she’d been suffering panic attacks, but that watching these films had really helped her relax, to focus on something lovely for a while and just help her to breathe out again.

I’d been feeling similarly wobbly, to tell the truth, so immediately clicked and scrolled, and actually found myself sighing out-loud with how beautiful they are.

 

 

Available to watch on Li Ziqi’s Instagram, the IGTV films follow her adventures as she strolles through flower-filled meadows, picking blossoms to cook with, to arrange into stunning, so-simple floral arrangements, and even make her own floral hydrolates with a copper still in her garden. A Chinese food and country-life vlogger from Pingwu in Mianyang, Sichuan, Li has become something of an Internet celebrity within China, and is fast gaining popularity around the world as stressed-out viewers tune in to drop out for a while.

 

 

And oh! That garden! Filled with rambling roses, herbs and vegetables of all description, kittens and puppies frolic and her grandmother chuckles in what are almost overwhelmingly charming and bucolic scenes, as Li Ziqi wanders further into the forest and welcomes spring by picking magnolia flowers, celebrates ‘peach blossom day’ and makes all manner of utterly delicious (and sometimes bewildering, if you don’t happen to be familiar with them) floral-themed dishes.

 

 

Satisfyingly, every single part of the plants seems to be used, in meals, for homemade fabric dyes or in glorious floral arrangements in huge vases. There’s something very ASMR about it all – Auto Sensory Meridian Response: a tingling, relaxing sensation some people feel while watching or listening to pleasing audio – with the wind rustling the rose bushes as she meticulously chops and prepares the food, windchimes tinkling in the background.

 

 

If you’re stuck indoors and feel trapped, as I do (self-isolating while looking after two elderly, at-risk parents) watching these short films feels almost as good as running through the forests in gauzy gowns yourself… And you know, the calm that washes over you isn’t just make-believe. Scientists have proved that even just looking at pictures of trees and greenery for a few minutes a day can actually help reduce stress and depression.

 

 

Dubious? Have a read of this fascinating article in Psychology Today, which asserts that ‘the sight of trees allows the parasympathetic nervous system to gain an edge, calming the entire body and making us more relaxed. That’s a good thing given how many of us live in concrete, urban environments. A recent NIH study [2] found that in urban surroundings, “contact with real or simulated green settings as opposed to [manmade] settings has positive effects on mood, self-esteem and self-reported feelings of stress and depression.” The Japanese have longed practiced Shirin-yoku, taking in the forest atmosphere or “forest bathing,” to alleviate stress, aggression, fatigue, and feelings of depression.’

 

 

So there you have it: if we can’t find freedom for now, or if you don’t have access to a garden of your own (let alone a flower-filled forest to frolic in), you can at least tune in and switch down your stress levels awhile.

Wishing you safe and well, until we meet again fragrant friends…

By Suzy Nightingale

AbScent – Lost your sense of smell? They can help…

Chrissi Kelly lost her sense of smell in 2012. She had no idea how seriously this would impact on her life – and how many people struggle with this on a daily basis. Since then, she’s launched AbScent and devoted her life to finding out more about the loss of smell, and developed Snif: a smell training app that’s a personal coach to re-building or enhancing the sense of smell…

Since the devastating loss of smell caused by a virus, Chrissi Kelly has been busy founding the charity AbScent, and supporting thousands of other people with smell loss through smell training. Having taken courses with Professor Thomas Hummel, the author of the first research paper on smell training at the University of Dresden, Germany; Chrissi used his tried and trusted techniques alongside specially devised ‘smell training kits’, which have significantly helped people to reconnect with their recovering sense of smell. Chrissi also speaks at conferences, runs workshops, online events and private sessions to support people with the condition. She’s a busy woman, indeed, and we were thrilled to join her at Jo Malone London‘s flagship Regent Street Store, recently, where they were kindly playing host to the official launch of AbScent.

 

 

Chrissi explained ‘the three pillars of smell training’ approach AbScent use to aid those with a loss of smell – be that from a head injury, illness, medication or even those who were born with what they perceive as no sense of smell at all. The message is, there is help out there, and there are active ways you can learn more, connect with others and improve your sense of smell with time.

Step 1:Find out where your sense of smell is today. Use the AbScent self-assessment form, here. You won’t know if you are improving if you don’t know where you’ve started.’

Step 2: Smell Train. There are full instructions for making your own Smell Training Kit, here. Or, if you prefer, you can purchase a pre-assembled Smell Training Kit.

Step 3: Take note of your experiences. AbScent provide a guide for keeping notes and a downloadable diary.

You can also now use the online Snif App – to ‘guide and instruct users so that each smell training session is consistent and productive. Snif becomes a personal coach that takes the guesswork out of practicing, presenting a mindful and focussed way of tracking your development. Currently web-based, a native app is in the works.

 

 

Think of it as physiotherapy for your nose,’ AbScent explain. ‘The brain can rewire itself, but this is a slow process. Smell training is a commitment and it takes time. You will need to train for a minimum of four months, twice a day.’ That may seem like quite an undertaking, but when you realise how earth-shattering a loss of smell can be, it’s definitely worthwhile. ‘I’d say that pretty much everyone who has suffered loss of smell goes on to develop depression in varying forms,’ Chrissi told us.

Imagine not being able to smell your own child, your partner – yourself. Or wondering is a phantom burning smell is actually your house burning down – a loss of smell isn’t simply not being able to smell things as well/at all: it can come with a whole host of disturbing side-effects, such as all food and drink suddenly tasting foul (leading to eating disorders or malnutrition).

It can feel incredibly difficult to go to your doctor if you’re not sure how to describe your symptoms, or what they need to know. Be assured that the medical profession are now – thank goodness – taking smell loss seriously. And AbScent have made a guide to talking to your doctor, so you know exactly what to say. They even have a list of clinics to go for further help.

 

 

AbScent have also launched a Sense of Smell Project. ‘We are trying to learn more about what it is like to live with this condition and how people’s lives change as a result.’ By taking part in their survey and telling your story, you can help them get a clear overview of subjects that may have not been considered, in order to ‘develop healing strategies and better ways to support patients.’

We cannot applaud enough, the work that Chrissi and her AbScent team have done so far, and their aims of helping even more people who may well have been ignored – or not even taken their own loss of smell seriously – for so long. We also hope that other fragrance houses will join in the support. Smell loss can strike any one of us at any time, and if we all work together, what a world of sensorial discoveries we could uncover…

By Suzy Nightingale

Dior Prêt-à-Portea: fragrantly inspired afternoon tea

Inspired by the magnificent Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition we reported on from the press day at the V&A, Dior have now launched an afternoon Prêt-àPortea at The Berkeley, and it really sounds like a treat for all the senses…

‘The Dior Couture Collection transforms landmark pieces into exquisite biscuits, bakes and fancies. From the Junon Dress worn by Theo Graham at Le Pré Catalan in Paris 1949 to the Bar Jacket which has been synonymous with Dior since it took to the catwalk in 1947 as part of the ‘New Look,’ each piece this season takes inspiration from Dior’s fashion history.

Your tea also includes a flavoursome collection of miniature savoury skewers, taster spoons, elegant canapés and tea sandwiches. To drink, choose a loose leaf tea from our extensive collection…’

Or you could go all-out and add some bubbles to the perfumed proceedings – a special treat for their Mother’s Day sitting on March 31, perhaps – or simply a way to celebrate the scents and treat yourself?

Prêt-à-Portea is priced at £60.00 per person.
Champagne Prêt-à-Portea, with a glass of Laurent-Perrier, £70.00 per person.
Signature Mocktail Prêt-à-Portea, with a glass of a refreshing Mango & Rooibos mocktail, £70.00 per person.
Couture Champagne Prêt-à-Portea, with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Rosé, Bollinger Rosé or Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, £76.00 per person.

Take a look at the full menu, here

This menu will be refreshed every six months, to reflect the catwalk trends, but right now we’re salivating over the thought of the rose pink Miss Dior cake and the Muguet pavlova, both directly inspired by the perfumes… Perfume and cake, could it honestly get any better?

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Mandy Aftel & The Splendid Table

The Splendid Table Selects podcast indulges in ‘conversations that inspire us to cook in creative ways’, so we were thrilled to hear one of our favourite perfumers, Mandy Aftel, was a recent guest!

The Splendid Table say: ‘Mandy Aftel is an artisan perfumer with a deep knowledge of natural essential oils. Her book Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scentco-authored by chef Daniel Patterson, features scent-crafting skills and perfume ingredients in cooking to highlight the difference just one drop of essential oil can make in a dish. Splendid Table contributor Jennifer 8 Lee met up with Aftel to talk about cooking with five particularly powerful aromas: cinnamon, mint, frankincense, ambergris and jasmine. Check out Mandy’s recipes for Rose and Ginger Soufflé and Fragrant Raspberry Bubbly.’

Have a listen to the episode here.

Mandy has long been a friend of The Perfume Society, and we have been delighted, in the past, to have thrown a Scented Supper in her honour, hosted and prepared by the brilliant chef Pratap Chahal, who was inspired by Mandy to use fragrant notes in his own cooking.

How wonderful that flavour and fragrance are finally being entwined in the public consciousness, and that perfumers are being interviewed about subjects outside of the usual ‘how do you make a perfume’ type questions. Could it be that our sense of smell will eventually be taken as seriously in the mainstream media…? We can but spray and pray.

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Creed’s sensory dinner & cocktails!

Now is the season when restaurants and cocktail menus get sparkled-up, aiming their wares at customers in the festive mood. But we’ve found something extra special for fragrance-lovers looking for something a cut above: Luxury fragrance house Creed is partnering with award-winning Kensington restaurant, Launceston Place to create a scent-inspired cocktail menu and a four-course sensory experience dinner with specially paired wines!

Available from now until 9th December 2018, mixologist Giorgio Tosato worked with Creed to create four limited-edition cocktails inspired by some of the fragrance house’s most desirable scents – Aventus, Aventus For Her, Green Irish Tweed and Royal Princess Oud.

On Monday 3rd December, the restaurant will also be hosting a Creed x Launceston Place Sensory Dinner. Fragrance expert, Eva Carlo and Head Chef, Ben Murphy will guide guests through a sensory experience including a 4 course meal and cocktail inspired by Creed Fragrances. A once-in-a-lifetime event, what an incredible gift this would be for the perfume lover in your life, or a treat for yourself…

You can purchase tickets here – there’s the option of having the specially created four-course dinner (£60.00), or plumping for the extra lavish option of the four-course dinner with wine pairing (£90.00) which we must admit would be our choice!

We’ve long been fans of mixing up the senses, and taste and smell always pair particularly well together – we rely so much on our sense of smell to taste the delicious nuances in food and drinks – so this has to be the perfect pre-Christmas treat for any perfumista/foodie and their fragrant pals. We’re drooling at the very thought of it…

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Givaudan bring together fragrance, flavour & body language…

What’s your body language saying about the fragrance you wear…?

Givaudan‘s Fine Fragrance perfumers have created a new ‘Delight’ collection in collaboration with flavourists – the first fragrance house to specifically use body language research in order to better understand the pleasure we feel when wearing perfume.

The idea began when Givaudan encouraged a close collaboration between their flavourists and perfumers in Paris, New York, São Paulo, Dubai and Singapore. Two arms of the industry who never usually work together, the project also required the input of a non-verbal communications specialist. And their goal?

‘Imagine your favourite flavour and the great feeling you get when you taste it: a powerful physical and emotional reaction that makes you crave more. Now imagine if we could bring that same level of desirability and moreishness to fragrances… That’s exactly what Givaudan has been doing as part of a new global initiative called Project Delight.’

Intriguing, right? There’s a definite correlation between that heady rush of pleasure we’re consumed with when smelling a scent we love – we might describe it as ‘delicious’, ‘moreish’, or even ‘addictive.’ With no true language of its own, we liken fragrance to food and taste all the time – and of course many of the same ingredients are used across flavour and fragrance – so it completely makes sense that Givaudan are focusing on studying the two together.

As a starting point, they analysed ‘…those moments where lip-smackingly good flavours collide with equally delicious aromas,’ composing evocative fragrance bases such as the candyfloss memories of a fun fair, the perfect buttered croissant we associate with a Parisian breakfast, the smoky-creamy mingling of a Brooklyn brunch and the glittering fizz of night out with cocktails. And Givaudan report ‘the result is a revolutionary and exclusive set of bases for perfumers to work with… scents that are both aromatic… and appetising.’

Senior Flavourist for Givaudan, Arnaud, explained the exciting thing for him was that, ‘as a flavourist, I work in a realistic, true to life way, while a perfumer works in the world of abstract and interpretation. In our collaboration on Project Delight, we wanted to mix these two strengths and add a realistic touch to our fragrance palette.’

As part of their research, Givaudan carried out a groundbreaking consumer study, assessing non-verbal responses (such as salivation, surprise or swallowing) to different fragrances. The first time this type of methodology has been used in fragrance development, the research enabled their perfumers to develop a new range of special ‘Delight’ fragrance bases which, rather excitingly, further tests went on to reveal ‘…triggered higher levels of pleasure and craving than other bases currently available.’

In the future, will we be craving certain scents with the same hunger we feel for food? Well according to Givaudan, you’d better tuck in your napkin and get ready for the pleasure in a whole new way, because ‘we have begun a voyage of discovery and will continue to explore further, opening up new possibilities for perfumers to entice consumers with new fragrances that spark pure pleasure…’

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Meet the chef who's cooking with scent in Soho…

Food and fragrance have long been linked – anyone who’s had a cold will attest to the fact that even the most delicious dish becomes less appetising, because your sense of smell is impaired. But for Michelin-trained chef Pratap Chahal, having already worked with some of the greatest names around, including Gordon Ramsey; it was reading natural perfumer Mandy Aftel‘s books that truly inspired him to delve further into the world of fragrant ingredients.

It was a natural fit to collaborate with us at The Perfume Society to create exclusive Scented Suppers for our subscribers – including one for Mandy herself, when she visited the UK last year, and oh, how those fragrantly inspired dishes will linger long in the minds of all who attended. But now, both Pratap and Mandy are taking their scented adventures even further…

Launching in September 2017 in the heart of Soho, Pratap’s finally opening the restaurant he’s always dreamed of – the rather vividly named, ‘Flavour Bastard‘ is to be a journey of flavours, using all the techniques he’s spent years researching and perfecting.

The restaurant, located on Frith Street, is founded by renowned restaurateur Vic Singh collaborating with Pratap, and we predict it will be seducing the senses and blowing the minds of foodies, if the menus are anything to go by. Have a napkin handy, as we are literally drooling just reading them…

Featuring a wide selection of ‘tiny’ and ‘small’ plates designed to be shared (tapas style) or doubled-up to ‘large’ for a main – everything sounds delectable, and so reasonably priced, too! Tiny plates – all under £5 – will include a white lentil, chorizo and pecorino doughnut and steamed rice cake with house kimchi, sesame and assam. Small plates – under £8 – have such delights as miso and mango glazed aubergine with peanut crumble; a ‘clouds of curds’ with pickled chilli; steak tartare with tamarind, chilli and garlic; and tandoori fried chicken. The restaurant’s large plate menu – everything under £15 – offers diners the option of super-sizing any of the smaller plates.

Pratap’s star is definitely rising – he’s recently been featured on the BBC series, Nadiya’s British Food Adventure, with Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain visiting Pratap at home to talk about cooking with ‘perfume’ and tasting some of his fabulous creations.

Meanwhile, Mandy Aftel has just published her latest book – The Art of Flavor – and is set to inspire even more home-cooks and chefs around the world with her groundbreaking use of uniquely delicious ingredients and game-changing techniques of extracting every drop of flavour in your food.

Mandy says: ‘I wrote The Art of Flavor with my dear friend the 2-Michelin-star chef Daniel Patterson. We teach cooks at all levels how to rely on their senses–not recipes–when making a meal, arguably making this the last cookbook you’ll ever need. From historical examples to the scientific underpinnings to pragmatic rules & phrases, we help home cooks understand better how to achieve the flavours they want.’

We cannot wait to taste for ourselves – both the menu at Pratap’s new restaurant, and the recipes in Mandy’s new book. Scent so good… you can eat it? Tuck in!
Written by Suzy Nightingale

The first gourmand: Brillat-Savarin – an 18th Century chemist who knew you are what you eat (and smell!)

Long before ‘gourmand’ foodie-inspired fragrances were even dreamed of and while smell was still perceived as the poor cousin of our other senses, one 18th Century polymath was championing the exquisite pleasures that taste and smell bring to everyday life. And more than mere pleasure alone: in fact, he heralded the proper appreciation and scientific study of these long-foregranted senses…
‘Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.’ So said Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, 1755-1826, a French lawyer and politician whom, apart from law, studied chemistry and medicine, and eventually gained fame as an epicure and gastronome.
 

 
His seminal work Physiologie du goût (The Physiology of Taste), contains Savarin’s philosophies and observations on the pleasures of the food, which he very much considered a science – long before the birth of molecular gastronomy and serious studies of taste and smell had begun. And smell was very much at the forefront of the gastronomique experience, Savarin had worked out; exclaiming:
‘Smell and taste are in fact but a single composite sense, whose laboratory is the mouth and its chimney the nose.’
Previously considered the least important of the senses – indeed, smell remains the least scientifically explored, though technology is making huge leaps in our understanding – Savarin proclaimed that,’The sense of smell, like a faithful counsellor, foretells its character.’
 

 
Published only two months before his death, the book has never been out of print and still proves inspirational to chefs and food-lovers to this day.
 

 
Preceding the remarkable leaps in knowledge high-tech equipment has allowed and revealing how entwined our sense of smell is to the taste and enjoyment of food, Savarin also observed how our noses protect us from eating potentially harmful substances, explaining ‘…for unknown foods, the nose acts always as a sentinal and cries: “Who goes there?”‘ while coming to the conclusion that a person’s character may be foretold in their taste and smell preferences… ‘Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.’
We devoted an entire issue of our award-winning magazine The Scented Letter (now available in print, and with online subscriptions worldwide!) to taste and smell – as of course we are gourmand fans in ALL the senses. And so it is heartening to know that Brillat was on our side here, with this extremely useful advice we selflessly pledge to carry through life:
‘Those who have been too long at their labor, who have drunk too long at the cup of voluptuousness, who feel they have become temporarily inhumane, who are tormented by their families, who find life sad and love ephemeral… they should all eat chocolate and they will be comforted.’
Wise words, indeed. We plan to enjoy all the sweet temptations that come our way, in scent form and in chocolate. Talk about having your cake and wearing it, too!
Written by Suzy Nightingale