When Molly Birnbaum started blogging in 2005, she was one of the first food bloggers on the scene. She had planned a career in the food world, and had even snagged herself a job at a hot Boston restaurant. And then she was hit by a car while jogging. She survived the accident but lost her sense of smell. She continued to blog and write as she slowly regained her sense of smell. Her memoir about the experience, Season To Taste, was released in paperback earlier this year. She’s now an editor at Cook’s Illustrated, and this past fall she finished editing The Science of Good Cooking.
Your memoir, Season to Taste, came out in paperback this year. What was it like doing a tour to promote the book?
I’ve loved promoting Season to Taste. I love going out and meeting people, reading to people, talking about books. Writing is a very solitary experience, and I’m happy alone in my head, but not for too long. An added bonus of promoting the book is that I’ve gotten to meet so many folks who have likewise experienced the loss of smell, which is also often a very solitary experience. Meeting others who are currently going through the same thing can be fascinating and healing and–I hope–helpful.
You now have one of those food writing dream jobs, editing books for Cook’s Illustrated. You must feel like a kid in the candy store, getting to work in the test kitchen!
I feel wildly lucky to have a regular job in food writing. I edited the CI book The Science of Good Cooking, and am now a features editor on Cook’s Illustrated. I get to work with extremely talented folks and learn something new every day.
You started your food writing career as a blogger, and now have a memoir and a steady editing job. Any advice for aspiring food bloggers looking to follow in your footsteps?
Work hard. (But not too hard.) It’s mostly determination.
Having lost and regained your sense of smell, what is your favorite scent?
Fresh rosemary. This was the first scent that returned to me after I lost my sense of smell in the car accident. I was helping my mother cook dinner at her home in Brookline. I was alone in the kitchen, chopping the fresh herb. And then all of a sudden it hit me. That scent. That deep, woodsy, dark-green scent. It had been a while since I had smelled anything at all, and the power of the scent surprised me. It brought me straight back to when I was a little girl and my family had gone on a trip out west, when I rode a horse for the first time, most likely on a trail riddled with rosemary plants. Scent and memory are so intertwined. It was sublime. I’d happily put rosemary in (almost) anything I cook today as a result.
Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!
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