From Harold McGee, James Beard Award-winning author and leading expert on the science of food and cooking, comes an extensive exploration of the awe-inspiring world of smell. In Nose Dive, McGee takes us on a sensory-filled adventure, from the sulfurous nascent earth more than four billion years ago, to the sweetly fragrant Tian Shan mountain range north of the Himalayas, to the keyboard of your laptop, where trace notes of formaldehyde escape between the keys. We'll sniff the ordinary (wet pavement and cut grass) and extraordinary (fresh bread and chocolate), the delightful (roses and vanilla) and the unpleasant (spoiled meat and rotten eggs). We'll smell each other. We'll smell ourselves.
Through it all, McGee familiarizes us with the actual bits of matter that we breathe in – the molecules that trigger our perceptions, that prompt the citrusy smells of coriander and beer and the medicinal smells of daffodils and sea urchins. And like everything in the physical world, molecules have histories. Many of the molecules that we smell every day existed long before any creature was around to smell them – before there was even a planet for those creatures to live on. Beginning with the origins of those molecules in interstellar space, McGee moves onward through the smells of our planet, the air and the oceans, the forest and the meadows and the city, all the way to the smells of incense, perfume, wine, and food.
Here is a story of the world, of all of the smells under our collective nose. A work of astounding scholarship and originality, Nose Dive distills the science behind the smells and translates it, as only McGee can, into an accessible and entertaining guide. Incorporating the latest insights of biology and chemistry, and interwoven with personal observations, McGee reveals how our sense of smell has the power to expose invisible, intangible details of our material world and life, and trigger in us feelings that are the very essence of being alive.
Harold McGee writes about the science of food and cooking. He is the author of the award-winning classic On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen and Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes, and a former columnist for The New York Times. He has been named food writer of the year by Bon Appétit magazine and to the Time 100, an annual list of the world's most influential people. Since 2010, he has been a visiting lecturer for Harvard University's course Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science. McGee lives in San Francisco.
– A Times Book of the Year 2020
– Best Books of 2020: Science – Financial Times
– Shortlisted for The Andre Simon Award
"Ever since Heston Blumenthal credited Harold McGee with teaching him the science behind his cooking, he has been the food nerd's favourite geek [...] Now I know why a sip of wine can make even perfectly fresh fish taste fishy (solution: a squeeze of lemon juice) and I've learnt the name for one of summer's most redolent smells: fresh rain on dry Tarmac"
– The Times (Saturday Review), Food Book of the Year 2020
"A tour-de-force [...] a superbly written odyssey around an underrated sense"
– Clive Cookson, Financial Times, Best Books of 2020: Science
"A riveting read that's sure to be a classic"
– The Independent, Food Books of 2020
"A joyously nerdy study of how and what we smell, the effect on our appetites and much more. He has a boffin's approach to detail but the hungry person's passion to boot"
– Sunday Times
"Nose Dive opens up a world full of wonder [...] enthralling, extraordinary, life-affirming"
– Diana Henry, Daily Telegraph
"Deeply researched [...] Reading Mr. McGee, mostly in isolation, I started to pay more attention to the information in the air, to jot down notes about the mundane fragments floating around me as I whiffed them in"
– Tejal Rao, International New York Times
"if you're ready to lean in and really smell the roses, Harold can show you the way"
– Waitrose Weekend
– Guardian Feast
"A no-holds barred book which explains why we love the foods we love [...] and will actually enrich your love of food"
– Radio 4 The Food Programme
"This keenly awaited volume is not exactly a food book, but it is the reference book that will make everything you eat seem more interesting [...] He explains everything from why fruits smell so delicious to the way that cooking can transform the scent of ingredients such as onions from pungent to sweet. There is fascination and delight on every page"
– Sunday Times (Culture)
"An ambitious and enormous work [...] McGee's breadth is demonstrated by his cosmological starting point"
"McGee is a food scientist who has produced some of the most important research on the subject: he is a hero to any chef worth his or her salt"
– Stephen Harris, Daily Telegraph
– New Yorke
"rA must-read for anyone passionate about nature, food, drinks and cooking. Full of anecdotes, there is something for everyone in this book [...] When I finished it, I knew that I would come back to it"
– Chemistry World
"Food science legend Harold McGee deftly explains the history of our planet's diverse scents [...] Like his other books, it mixes chemistry, physiology, psychology and biology, adds good dollops of humanity and humour, and seasons it all with an infectious sense of wonder [...] Discover what cat pee has in common with sauvignon blanc in this mind-expanding guide"
"You don't need to know the names of the molecules you smell, but you can see which foods share specific ones. This will help you understand why, as a cook and an eater, certain dishes appeal to you [...] Understanding how food smells are connected might also help you to be more creative when layering flavours, a fundamental part of cooking"
– Sunday Times (Stella)