Culture: 216 posts

Art, travel, books, history

Winter Lists : 5 Books and 2 Perfumes

There is nothing especially winter-like about my list of books (and perfumes). It’s mainly about enjoyment, with a dose of something high-spirited. Some may call it escapism, but I see it as a way to recharge and tune out the world long enough for me to find my balance and plunge back into the routine. Moreover, high-spirited, entertaining and fun, whether in literature, art or perfume, can assume many different forms. Here is my take.

winter-list

Jeffrey Steingarten The Man Who Ate Everything

“Whenever I have nothing better to do, I roast a chicken,” writes Jeffrey Steingarten. The food critic at Vogue magazine since 1989, Steingarten is also the author of two of my favorite books about cooking and eating, The Man Who Ate Everything and It Must’ve Been Something I Ate. Steingarten is witty, irreverent and passionate, an irresistible combination. His essays are full of interesting tidbits and recipes, but the main reason I enjoy them is because of Steingarten’s dry sense of humor. I don’t know how many times I’ve read “Kyoto Cuisine,” but the scene in which he tries to pry off the lid from a bowl of soup leaves me laughing out loud every single time. In the same essay, he also describes the exquisite flavors of Japanese cuisine, reminding his reader that as a bumbling tourist he may have missed many nuances. With Steingarten you can visit the Nishikidori market in Kyoto, run a scientific test of ketchups, grill sardines with Marcella Hazan in Venice, perfect fries, or try cooking from the back of the box.

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10 Virtues of Incense

Incense is the most democratic of all scent enjoyments, writes Kiyoko Morita in her short but comprehensive work titled The Book of Incense: Enjoying the Traditional Art of Japanese Scents. While distilling roses or gathering ambergris was as expensive in antiquity as it is now, blending spices and aromatic woods was much more accessible even to those with small budgets. Certainly, incense made with the finest grades of agarwood can cost its weight in gold, but even the inexpensive varieties are excellent and comparable to the best perfumes in terms of complexity, elegance and balance.

incense-cat1

Although incense for most European and American scent lovers is associated with the heavy sweetness of Indian nag champa, the world of combustible aromatics and their artisans is vast and diverse. My personal favorites come from Japan, and instead of sweetness, they place their accents on licorice and moss like notes. Sandalwood or various types of cedar provide the woody backdrop, and the rest is up to the blender’s imagination and your tastes. You can find Japanese incense with floral motifs, intertwining violets with woods, or edging towards mellow spices and ambers. Shoyeido is one of the most readily accessible Japanese brands in the US, and their website offers lots of choice (Autumn Leaves is especially recommended).

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Explaining Oud and Middle Eastern Perfume Trends

I get lots of requests to talk about perfume trends–what themes are promising to remain popular, why white florals are perennial favorites, what we might see in the upcoming season, and other questions along these lines. Answering them is a bit like reading a crystal ball, and some marketing agencies earn a nice profit doing just that. On the other hand, what people wear in different countries and why they enjoy what they do is something I find fascinating. This is the topic of my recent FT column, Perfumes with Middle Eastern panache. Based on my travels and interviews, the article explains why fragrance is such an integral part of Middle Eastern culture and how European perfume houses are taking note of it.

middle-eastern-perfumes

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A Visit to Musée Lalique

Andrea, a Bois de Jasmin reader, recently visited the Lalique museum in Alsace, France and sent me a few photos from her trip. When François Coty made his famous statement, “Give a woman the best product you can make, present it in a perfect flacon with beautiful simplicity and impeccable taste, ask her to pay a reasonable price, and that will be the birth of a business such as the world has never seen,” Lalique flacon is what he meant. The idea was revolutionary, and together Coty and Lalique made history. And take a look at these stunning bottles! Don’t they themselves look like works of art?

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Andrea mentioned that at the museum you can see Lalique wares for all purposes, from sacred to profane–from liturgical objects to different types of decorations. There are perfume bottles and powder boxes, car trinkets and jewelry. You can also discover the interior design Lalique created for luxury liners and trains! If that were not enough, at the museum shop you can purchase Lalique perfumes, save for the Noir Premier Collection.

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Reading

Looking through some of my photographs, I found this picture of my grandfather as a first year engineering student.

grandfather reading

He posed for the photo, but in my recollections of him, a book–and a fishing rod–are ever present.

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Latest Comments

  • Joy in Recommend Me a Perfume : January 2017: What a unique bottle! Your description sounds very intriguing and I will have to give it a try. January 21, 2017 at 11:15am

  • Joy in Recommend Me a Perfume : January 2017: Lily, many thanks for all of your diverse recommendations. All but Hermes Eau de Merveilles are new to me. In fact I tried Eau de Merveilles the other day and… January 21, 2017 at 11:10am

  • Lily in Recommend Me a Perfume : January 2017: So your lists of likes/dislikes almost completely overlap with mine (only exception that I do like fig and all spices!). But not that many of my perfumes have an opposites… January 21, 2017 at 10:15am

  • DP in Elie Roger and Estee Lauder Knowing: Wrappings is amazing. I do not understand why it is considered a seasonal or holiday fragrance. It is notoriously difficult to find except in December. It is definitely a Lauder… January 21, 2017 at 9:18am

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