Drink In Life Book Club-The Scent Keeper

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.

To join the Book Club Live Book Discussion of The Scent Keeper with the author, Erica Bauermeister on Sunday November 21st at 4:00 pm PST/7:00 EST make sure that you are signed up to receive email notifications from Drink In Life (Email Subscription on right hand of the page) and Comment on this story post. You will receive an email invite to join the discussion. You can also follow @drinkinlifebookclub on Instagram, comment on the November Book post and ask to join the discussion.

About the Book….

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.

Never 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.

A Word with the Author….

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 our 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.

An Interview with Erica Bauermeister:

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…

November Recipes….

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.

Chef Jill’s Recipes….

“This book is fascinating how it weaves scents throughout the story in such a creative way. It causes me much introspection, and intrigues me in how scents can actually trigger in all of us so many emotions and memories. These aromatic ‘stimulants’ flood our minds and bodies with information that leads to actual visceral physical responses.”

“The recipes I have created for November are actually etched personal reflections of my own life experiences growing up in a family where food is love, and food meant care taking. Thanksgiving and autumnal recipes are some of the most beloved aromatic foods of the entire year. So I set out to create recipes this month that not only reflect my own delicious scented memories, but also ones to give you some new inspiration for use with your abundant Thanksgiving leftovers.” -Chef Jill Sonlin

Mom’s Creamy Clam Dip

Recipe by Chef Jill Sonlin of Jill’s Gourmet Dreams
Everyone in my family loves this little gem of a family recipe. It’s easy to make, and goes way back to my Mom and her best friend Connie as young mothers. They both used to make this yummy dip to serve as a snack when visiting each other with their kids in tow.  Now my Mom makes this simple dip for every family celebration, as it has become woven into the fabric of our family traditions and favorite appetizers.
Wine Pairing: Fletcher Bay Albarino

Ingredients
  

  • 1 8 Ounce Block Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened well at room temperature
  • 1 can minced Clams, with half the clam juice drained off into a separate container (save juice)
  • 1 can minced Clams completely drained of all liquid (save juice)
  • 1-2 Dashes (or more) Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and Black Pepper to taste
  • Parsley, fresh & finely chopped, as garnish
  • Potato Chips (to serve with dip)

Instructions
 

  • Mix the block of softened cream cheese with 1 can of clams containing half the amount of clam juice from the can. Mix together thoroughly with a fork or spoon until incorporated.
    Add in a little extra reserved clam juice 1 Tbsp at a time as needed to get mixture to a smooth consistency.
    Mix in the other can of fully drained minced clams into the dip.
    Add in a couple dashes (or more) of Worcestershire sauce, S & P, and mix well.
    Taste, and adjust seasonings to your taste preference.
    Sprinkle top with chopped parsley.
    Serve with potato chips and enjoy!

Turkey Pho Soup

Recipe by Chef Jill Sonlin of Jill’s Gourmet Dreams
This fast and delicious Pho soup recipe is such a fun and unique way to use Thanksgiving turkey leftovers in a more interesting way! Using store bought broth and filling the bowls with items that you already have on hand in your refrigerator, makes this a simple healthy meal that’s ready in minutes.
Wine Pairing: Fletcher Bay Pinot Grigio

Ingredients
  

  • 8 cups Organic Chicken Broth or Stock (store bought or homemade)
  • 1 package Thai Flat Rice Noodles, cooked as per package directions
  • Turkey breast, cooked & sliced, enough for 4 servings
  • 1 Jalapeno, thinly sliced, seeds removed (optional)
  • 1 cup  sliced raw mushrooms
  • 1 cup sweet Red Pepper, thinly sliced
  • ½ small Red Onion sliced thin, raw
  • 1 cup White Bean Sprouts, cleaned
  • 1 Lime sliced in wedges
  • Sriracha Sauce (optional, use if you like spicy)
  • Salt to taste
  • Thai Basil leaves whole
  • Optional: use any other veggies you have on hand, and add them into your soup as well. No limits with adding healthy ingredients you already have.

Instructions
 

  • Heat chicken stock in a pot on the stove. Taste and add salt as needed.
    Divide hot broth into 4 bowls.
    Then add into each bowl: cooked rice noodles, turkey slices, jalapenos, mushrooms, red peppers, red onion, bean sprouts, and lime wedge. Top with fresh Thai Basil.
    Serve the Sriracha sauce on the side for anyone who wants their soup spicy.
    Time to eat! Enjoy this yummy bowl of health!

Loaded Turkey Double Lettuce Wrap Ups

Recipe by Chef Jill Sonlin of Jill’s Gourmet Dreams
These aromatic and healthy lettuce wraps will make creative use of turkey leftovers! You will feed your body both health and warm autumnal flavors from a double lettuce wrap and a subtle hint of cloves in the filling.
Wine Pairing: Fletcher Bay Pinot Grigio

Ingredients
  

  • Butter Lettuce, 4 leaves removed whole, cleaned
  • Radicchio Lettuce, 4 leaves removed whole, cleaned
  • 2 cups diced cooked Turkey 
  • 3-4 tbsp Hellman’s Mayonaise
  • 1 stalk Celery small diced
  • 6 Red Grapes cut into thin circles
  • 2 tbsp diced Walnuts
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh Parsley
  • tsp ground Cloves
  • 2 tbsp organic dried Cranberries
  • 2 tbsp small diced Red Onion
  • 3 tbsp small diced Red Cabbage
  • 1 tsp organic Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Broccoli Sprouts garnish (optional)

Instructions
 

  • In a bowl mix together the diced turkey, mayo, celery, grapes, walnuts, parsley, cloves, cranberries, red onion, red cabbage, vinegar, and S & P to taste.
     Add additional mayo as needed to get to your consistency preference.
     Take one Butter Lettuce leaf and lay on plate. Top with one Radicchio leaf. 
    Fill radicchio leaf with ¼ of the turkey salad mixture.
    Top with broccoli sprouts (optional). 
    Serve immediately! 

Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream Soda

Recipe by Chef Jill Sonlin of Jill’s Gourmet Dreams
This fun bubbly ice cream soda dessert will have you reminiscing about days gone by! The distinctive aromatic pumpkin pie spices will surely warm you up like a warm bonfire on a cold autumn night!

Ingredients
  

  • Vanilla Ice Cream, half gallon
  • Caramel Syrup
  • 1 slice Pumpkin Pie
  • 6 Spice Cookies, store bought or homemade (I used Sweetzels brand Spiced Wafers!)
  • Club Soda
  • 1-2 tbsp Milk as needed (optional)
  • Whipped Cream, Maraschino Cherries, Sprinkles
  • 2 tall Milkshake Glasses, 2 Straws 2 long handled Spoons

Instructions
 

  • In a blender, mix together 4-5 scoops of vanilla ice cream, the slice of pumpkin pie, and 6 spice wafer cookies. Blend all together until well incorporated. You may add 1 Tbsp of milk at a time to get to the desired smooth consistency. You want it thick, so add milk sparingly.
    Take a tall glass and add caramel syrup to the bottom of the glass. You can also have the caramel drip along the inside of the walls of the glass too. Can’t have too much caramel! 
    Pour in the glasses the pumpkin spice ice cream, so it fills 2/3’s of the way up.
    Add club soda until it reaches the top of the glass. 
    Top with whipped cream, cherry, and sprinkles. 
    Serve with a straw and a long handled spoon.
    Dig in!

Visit Jill’s Gourmet Dreams to find more of Chef Jill’s delectable recipes.

The Scent Keeper Wine Sponsor….

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.

Chef Jill and I would like to thank our November Drink In Life Book Club wine sponsor Fletcher Bay Winery for sharing their incredible wines.

Fletcher Bay Albariño

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 Chef Jill’s “Mom’s Creamy Clam Dip”.

Fletcher Bay Pinot Grigio

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.

Fletcher Bay Cabernet Franc

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.

Additional Reading….

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.

Jill and I hope that we have inspired you to make some of these recipes to enjoy while you read The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister. We would love to hear your thoughts on these recipes and the book. Cheers everyone and we hope to see you soon at the next virtual Drink In Life Book Club discussion.

Remember to join the Book Club Live Book Discussion of The Scent Keeper with the author, Erica Bauermeister on Sunday November 21st at 4:00 pm PST/7:00 EST make sure that you are signed up to receive email notifications from Drink In Life (Email Subscription on right hand of the page) and Comment on this story post. You will receive an email invite to join the discussion. You can also follow @drinkinlifebookclub on Instagram, comment on the November Book post and ask to join the discussion.

Previous Book Club Recipes from Elaine and Chef Jill can be found on the Welcome to the Drink In Life Book Club, the Drink In Life Book Club post, the Drink In Life Book Club-The Vintner’s Daughter post and the Drink In Life Book Club-Garden Spells post.

Images, content and recipes © of Drink In Nature Photography/Drink In Life Blog and/or Jill’s Gourmet Dreams.

2 Comments on “Drink In Life Book Club-The Scent Keeper

  1. I so look forward to reading this book! As well the recipes look amazing. Such a great write up!

    • Thank you for reading the blog Jay. I hope that you enjoy reading The Scent Keeper and let me know if you try any of this months recipes. Cheers!

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