Culture: 278 posts

Art, travel, books, history

Scents of the Burgundian Spring : The Perfume Course

Wrapping up yet another perfume course, I want to linger over each moment that we shared together and examine how far we’ve come over three days of intensive studies. Originally, my course took shape as a rigorous training program for perfumery professionals, aimed at educating people who work in the perfume industry (but who haven’t had perfumery training) and to give them an appreciation for perfume history. When I adapted it for fragrance lovers, I discovered that my method worked to help anyone, regardless of their knowledge of fragrance or background, to sharpen their sense of smell, learn how to smell and how to analyze mixtures from the simplest to the most complex.

Even as I teach the subject I’ve spent more than a decade exploring, I discover new facets to familiar scents, new ways of talking about aromas and new ways of connecting different sensory impressions. It’s because of the subject matter itself, which is vast, but also because of the people who come to my classroom–and to Bois de Jasmin–and their willingness to share their experiences. Thank you to all of you!

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An Anemone Walk

A few kilometers south of Brussels lies the Hallerbos (Bois de Hal in French), also known as the bluebell forest. I’ve written about it previously and shared photos of its turquoise tinted valleys during the bluebell season which starts around mid-April. This year, however, I went to the forest earlier to see the anemones.

Although less striking in color than bluebells, woodland anemones have a graceful beauty. Their flowers are white, with delicate pink veining and as they turn to follow the sun, they look opalescent.

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Pysanka Easter Egg Museum in Kolomyia, Ukraine

Decorating eggs is an ancient tradition, still alive in many countries, from Iran to Greece, but in Ukraine it becomes an art form–and a national obsession. Pysanka, as the decorated egg is called, from the word “pysaty”, “to write,” is  one of the most important traditional arts in Ukraine. Today pysanka (plural is pysanky) is prepared around Easter, although decorated eggs were also used to be given as birthday gifts and wedding presents. Each region has its own set of symbols, colors and patterns, while each master adds their own signature touch.

It’s not surprising then that Ukraine should have a museum dedicated to the pysanky. The Pysanka Museum in the western Ukrainian city of Kolomyia is one of the most fascinating museums I’ve visited. The museum was a labor of love of the local community that collected the best examples of its pysanka masters and preserved them in the Kolomyia church of the Annunciation. In 2000, the museum was formally opened, allowing for preservation of the fragile masterpieces, as well as for hosting workshops and lectures. Walking through its halls filled with more than 1000 pysanky is a mind-blowing experience. It’s hard to believe that such intricate designs are made by human hands.

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Easter Eggs Colored With Onion Skins

I see the Easter color palette as yellow, violet, green, and sienna. Yellow is from the saffron tinted paska, a vanilla scented brioche we traditionally make for Easter Sunday. Violet is from the candied flowers we use to decorate it. Green is from the dill and cucumber salad that must accompany the roast pork. Sienna, on the other hand, is from the color of Easter eggs. It’s a rich hue, between the reds of Sienna frescoes and the brown of sandalwood. This color is completely natural and making it is very easy. All you need is a few handfuls of onion skins.

My grandmother starts collecting onion skins a few months before Easter, but she colors dozens of eggs. Most of us need no more than a few onions, although the more skins you have, the darker the color will be. It also follows that the darker the onion skins, the more intense the shade of sienna.

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The Garden of the Seven Beauties of Nezami

For the Persian New Year and the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, I would like to take you to a secret garden with thousands of blossoms and thousands of scents. The passage will be provided by the twelfth-century Persian poet Nezami, who described this enchanting place in his poem Haft Peykar, The Seven Beauties.

Nezami (1141-1209), also known as Nizami Ganjavi, lived in the city of Ganja, the area of Azerbaijan that was part of the Persian empire until the 19th century. Like most poets of his day, Nezami had skills in various branches of arts and science. He was a philosopher, a mathematician, an astronomer, a historian, and a botanist, to name only a few fields in which he was skilled, and his marvelous erudition and knowledge of Persian literature and folklore make his works vivid.

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