Have you ever come across a whiff of something that instantly takes you back to an old memory? Whether a distinctive scent that reminds you of your grandmother’s cooking or a trip to the ocean, scents have a way of sinking into our brains as memories and they stay there until a familiar aroma brings them rushing back. Whether it is a batch of freshly baked cookies, a favorite perfume or the smell of freshly cut flowers from the garden, our sense of smell allows us to appreciate all of the fragrances we encounter in our everyday lives.
Often we take our day to day sense of smell for granted relying more on our eyes and ears as our guide. Yet, of the five senses, scent is most said to be the one that is more closely linked to memory. A scent marketing research study found that people can remember a scent with 65% accuracy after one year while visual memory drops to 50% after only a few months. Sense of smell is also linked to the parts of the brain that process emotion making smells and aromas an incredibly influential part of our lives.
This months book title, The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister, is a lovely work of fiction that shows how we rely on our sense of smell to connect to our surroundings, to connect with the people around us and to connect with our past. I hope that you give it a read and discover for yourself how the world of scents plays important social and emotional roles in our lives.
The Scent Keeper is a book of journey and discovery captured in a series of beautifully written moments of the life of Emmeline, from a child to the beginning of adulthood. It is a story of the magic of scents, their stories and how each of us keep within us a collection of memories attached to the aromas that fill our world. Through each step of Emmeline’s arduous journey searching for answers to her past, Bauermeister’s incredible description of scents visually displays how the scents around us root themselves in our history and life stories. Once you begin this book, you lose yourself in the story and its difficult to put the book down until the end.
Not one to overshare the plot of a book let’s just say that The Scent Keeper invites you to think of smells and scents and what real significance they hold for you. How an encounter of a specific smell makes you feel and its ability to transport you to a different place and time, with a fond or negative memory. This coming-of-age story will provoke discussion about how we capture memories, how we perceive the world around us and the ultimate outcome of life’s difficult choices.
The Scent Keeper story captivated me with its magical world of scents. Throughout the book I never thought about what was to come, because Bauermeister does a fantastic job in keeping you focused on what is happening in the moment.
In addition to The Scent Keeper, Erica Bauermeister is also the author of the bestselling novels The School of Essential Ingredients, Joy for Beginners, and The Lost Art of Mixing. Erica’s most recent book, House Lessons: Renovating a Life is a memoir-in-essays of a journey to discover the ways our spaces subliminally affect us. She has also co-authored non-fiction works including 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader’s Guide and Let’s Hear It For the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14.
She has a PhD in literature from the University of Washington, and has taught there and at Antioch University. She is a founding member of the Seattle7Writers and currently lives in Port Townsend, Washington.
Photo Credit: Susan Doupe
When Erica joins us for the virtual book club discussion on November 21st, there will be plenty of time for participants to ask her a few questions about The Scent Keeper. First however, I wanted to ask Erica some of my own questions about how she came up with the idea for this novel and a little more about her writing in general.
What inspired you to integrate senses into this Novel?
I love the subliminal—food, architecture, our senses, all these things that are affecting us without our noticing them. Smell became an important sense for me in my mid-40’s, when my sense of smell just went off the charts (hormones? Pre-menopause?). I was fascinated at how different the world suddenly seemed to me. And it made me wonder – what would our world look like to a child who was raised with smell as her primary sense? And that led to Emmeline.
Both the Island and the Cabin where Emmeline grows up feels like an enchanted world, what was your inspiration for this isolated island and cabin which held within it walls of drawers protecting vials of memory scent papers?
The cabin and island were inspired by our travels in British Columbia, and more specifically, the Broughton Archipelago. It is a beautiful, peaceful, almost completely unpopulated part of the world. I was looking for somewhere a man could take a young child and raise her without interference. That’s not as easy to find as you might think. But in the Broughton Archipelago, I found it.
As for the cabin walls and their little drawers – it just came to me in a vision. But as I’ve learned, those visions always come from somewhere. Years into writing Scent Keeper I remembered going to the Tutankhamen Exhibit and seeing a cabinet with many small drawers. Most of them had spices or medicines, but each of them had a smell. And I think that experience settled in my imagination and became Emmeline’s cabin.
This is truly a unique and beautifully written coming of age story with multi-layers of self-discovery and secrets, what message do you hope readers will take away from Emmeline’s journey?
I think the main ones would be:
1) Our sense of smell is more important and valuable than most people realize
2) Our greatest talents often come from the broken parts of us
3) We can choose how we use those talents, and whether to perpetuate the brokenness, or to make the world a better place.
4) When we learn to see our parents as human beings (flawed, but human), our relationship with them, and our own ability to mature, becomes stronger.
What inspires you to write, is it the overall theme of the novel or the characters that speak to you the most?
I usually start with a question and a character (or characters). One drives me to research, and the other leads me into a fictional life. The two work in tandem. In Scent Keeper, the question was “what would it be like to grow up with smell as your dominant sense?” and the character, of course, was Emmeline. I just loved her from the moment she came into my imagination.
Do you have a specific space and/or routine that helps with your writing process?
For years (decades?) I didn’t because I had kids and a job and couldn’t predict the schedule of my life. Now the kids are fledged, and writing is my job, so it’s much easier. I have built a small writing studio down in our yard and I go there in the mornings at around 7:30 and write for 3 hours or so. Researching and editing is in the afternoon. I have to say, there are many awful things about the pandemic, but the predictability of my writing schedule has been incredibly productive.
Photo Credit: Erica Bauermeister
Images of Erica’s house in Port Townsend, WA which was the inspiration for her book, House Lessons: Renovating a Life. (Photos courtesy of Erica Bauermeister)
Can you share any news about new novels or books that you are working on? Are any of your books being considered for a movie or miniseries?
I have a new manuscript I just sent to my agent. We’ll likely be sending it out to publishers next month, so cross your fingers. Currently I have two books that are with producers who are working on screen adaptations – School of Essential Ingredients and Scent Keeper. Both are going to be pitched to studios in the next few months, but I’ve learned along the way that you can’t get your hopes up. You can cross your fingers, though!
Since we incorporate wine and food pairings with each book club title, I have to ask. Do you have a favorite Washington (or PNW) Wine/Wines? Any favorite food and wine pairings that are on the top of your list?
One I like is the 2016 Barbera Horse Heaven Hills from Lost River Winery. Great with a red sauce pasta…
For chefs and home cooks alike inspiration can come in many forms, first visually and then with the sense of smell and finally with the taste of their creations. Since The Scent Keeper’s focal point is on the world of scents and aromas I wanted to highlight some recipes that not only tantalize your taste buds but fill the house with wonderful aromas. November kicks off the holiday season with the celebration of Thanksgiving here in the United States, and because of this I wanted to share some of my most aromatic Turkey season recipes to help inspire you during this festive season.
Each year there are two aromatic seasonal recipes that find a place on our family’s Thanksgiving table. The first recipe by Chef Tyler Florence, Caramelized Onion and Cornbread Stuffing, has been a favorite since I first made it almost ten years ago. I start this recipe with a simple but delicious homemade cornbread recipe, Grandmother’s Buttermilk Cornbread from Allrecipes which always makes the house smell amazing.
Photo Credit: Food Network
I think that many of us grew up eating some form of a Sweet Potato dish on the Thanksgiving table, probably one that had toasted marshmallows on it that filled the house with delicious aromas. The second staple on our table every year is this wonderful Gourmet Sweet Potato Classic recipe also found on Allrecipes. For this recipe I bake the sweet potatoes in the oven and when mixing up the pecan topping I add a little more warmth to this classic with an additional dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. This is definitely a recipe to try this year.
Nestled in the heart of Puget Sound on Bainbridge Island, Fletcher Bay is part of Washington’s Puget Sound AVA and is one of Washington’s best-kept secrets! Each of Fletcher Bay’s distinct wines tell a unique story, and showcase their passion for making handcrafted limited quantity wines from grapes grown both on the Bainbridge Island and in Eastern Washington. You can read more about this Washington Winery on my previous post, Fletcher Bay Winery.
I would like to thank the November Drink In Life Books wine sponsor Fletcher Bay Winery for sharing their incredible wines.
Albariño is a grape varietal that has incredible expressive potential that few winelovers can resist due to it’s citric acidity and flavors of plump ripe pears, apples and aromatic floral notes.
A 100% Albariño sourced from Crawford Vineyard in the Yakima Valley, this Albariño delivers a wonderful aroma of honeysuckle and lemon-lime on the nose that is joined by subtle fragrances of yellow apple and vanilla.
Supplying an impressive mouthfeel with layers of minerality and juicy acidity, this Albariño is swimming with flavors of ripe pear and stone fruit as well as a kiss of honey. A lovely Albariño to sip alone or pair with your favorite Thanksgiving appetizer.
Pinot Grigio is one of the most versatile grape varieties and the delightful surprises you get from this Fletcher Bay Washington-grown bottle do not disappoint. Delicate aromatic notes of elderflower and lemon along with apple and pear set the stage for this easy drinking, classic white. It might be light in texture, but there is a crispness to this Pinot Grigio that along with a touch of sweetness helps carry it’s lingering fruit finish. A charming Pinot Grigio that would be a perfect wine to share with friends during any book club discussion.
For those who have tried it, it’s more and more clear that Cabernet Franc here in Washington is every bit as good as Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the state. As in other wine regions, Cab Franc from Washington is terroir driven and features a wide diversity of characteristics. Fletcher Bay’s 2019 Cabernet Franc capitalizes on the grapes grown in Walla Walla, in Eastern Washington and more specifically in Dwelley Vineyards. From this vineyard that is on an elevated hill east of town overlooking all of the Walla Walla, the Cab Franc grapes capture earth and wild herb notes from the local terroir.
Brimming with floral aromas of violet and geranium, this ripe red fruit forward Cab Franc is a wine that justifies some extra swirls and sniffs. Savory and complex with pronounced intense flavors of cherry, vanilla, pepper and toasted oak with a zest of condensed dried black fruit and herbs, this Cabernet Franc packs an enjoyable long finish punch.
You can discover more about Fletcher Bay Winery and all of their available wines on the Fletcher Bay website.
I really enjoy Erica Bauermeister’s expressive way of writing, her curious characters, and the way she depicts moments in the lives of the people in her books. Bauermeister’s novels all share a common theme of taking the characters from times of seclusion and moving them to discovering more about themselves through fellowship with others. These novels tend to focus on characters more than plot as well as everyday sensory aspects that we encounter in our everyday lives. Each of the following books by Bauermeister would be a fantastic addition to your reading list.
“Life is beautiful. Some people just remind you of that more than others.”
― Erica Bauermeister, The School of Essential Ingredients
Lessons in cooking become reflections on life for eight cooking students and their teacher when they meet at Lillian’s restaurant kitchen. Aromas, flavors and textures transform the students one by one in this novel as they become united in the power of food and companionship. A must read for book lovers and foodies.
“She had begun to suspect that in order to live, sometimes you simply had to leap into the gap left by sorrow, the only hope that you would feel the solid ledge of the other side under your feet as you fell.”
― Erica Bauermeister, The Lost Art of Mixing
In this follow-up to The School of Essential Ingredients Baeurmeister uses a collection of linked stories to showcase how the characters lives continue to mix and collide with others. This is a book about how our bonds are tied and broken with others and how sometimes you have to create a family other than the one you are given.
“… the results of the irrevocable decisions in her life, the commitments she had leaped into without thought, with only the sure and perfect knowledge that it mattered not where her feet landed because her heart was certain. ― Erica Bauermeister, Joy for Beginners
As a breast cancer survivor myself, this powerful story of challenges, transformation, and a circle of supportive friends really moved me. Don’t let the subject matter sway your thoughts on reading this enjoyable page-turner. This is a magical story about undertaking challenges and discovering that you can accomplish more than you ever thought you could. Joy for Beginners is a gratifying read.
“And so I take my love of good details from my mother…as I worked on the house in Port Townsend, I finally began to understand my mother’s quest for the perfect Christmas tree–the desire to find art in the everyday, when everyday is the palette you were given.” —Erica Bauermeister, House Lessons
House Lessons by Bauermeister is a collection of meditative short essays about her home renovation in Port Townsend, WA as well as the renovation of the her life. This books is a journey for the reader through the spaces in our lives and how they affect us subliminally, a literary psychological exploration of architecture and what a home really means to us individually. A wonderful book about making a home.
I hope that I have inspired you to make some of these recipes to enjoy while you read The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister. Stay tuned for a few new recipes!
I would love to hear your thoughts on these recipes and the book. Cheers everyone.
Previous Book Titles and Recipes can be found here.
Images, content and recipes © of Drink In Nature Photography/Drink In Life Blog.
Category: Drink In Life Books, Washington Wines, WineTags: aromatic memories, Aromatic Recipes, Aromatic Thanksgiving Recipes, Author Erica Bauermeister, Bainbridge Island, Bainbridge Island Washington Winery, Book Club, Book Club Recipes, Books and Wine, Books Food and Wine Pairings, Caramelized Onion and Cornbread stuffing, Drink In Life Book Club, Erica Bauermeister, Food and Wine, food and wine pairing, Foodie, Gourmet Sweet Potato classic, Grandmother's Buttermilk Cornbread, Interview with Author Erica Bauermeister, Live Chat with the author, Recipes for book club, sense of smell, smells and memories, Thanksgiving recipe, The power of the sense of smell, The Scent Keeper, The Scent Keeper Book Club Recipes, The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister, The Spell Keeper Book Club, virtual book club, Washington Wine, wine and books, Wineries on Bainbridge Island