Travel: 112 posts

Searching for scents and sensory traditions around the world.

Rosewater in Food and Fragrance

The 10th century Persian philosopher and scientist Avicenna is credited with many contributions to astronomy, geography, psychology, logic, mathematics, and physics. He also found time to delve into perfumery and devised methods to extract essential oils, experimenting on roses. If Avicenna were to step into a fragrance lab today, he would orient himself quickly enough–modern perfumery is a curious amalgam of state-of-the-art science and traditional techniques. For instance, rose oil is prepared in much the way as in Avicenna’s time through the process of steam distillation.

Even older than rose oil is rosewater, an ingredient with a history predating Avicenna. Lebanese food writer Barbara Abdeni Massaad, whose award winning cookbook Mouneh explores the traditions of preserving fruit, vegetables and flowers, includes a section on making rosewater. “Yes, the distillates from roses and orange flowers continue to be made in villages,” she commented on the vitality of the tradition. “Older people still believe that homemade is best.”

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From The Family Album: Israel

I prepared a different article for today over the weekend, but when I spoke with my cousin in Israel and learned some of her friends ended up among the people held hostage, I didn’t have any motivation to finish my original piece. My cousin was crying and unable to talk and I didn’t know what to say to comfort her. We are not a religious family, but we ended up praying together, wishing for this suffering of innocent people to stop.

Those who have read The Rooster House know that I have family in Israel. My cousin left Ukraine in the early 1990s and eventually my uncle Vladimir, my father’s oldest brother, joined her. Vladimir was a fascinating character who drives the story in my book–and who inspired my interest in photography and Ayurveda. I have shared previously in Boy With a Fotokor how as a bedridden child suffering from the consequences of polio, he experimented taking photos of his surroundings. He created a large archive of images that are the most vivid captures of the Soviet Union in the 1950s.

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Perfume Treasure in Sicily Boudoir 36

Spend a day in Catania, a baroque jewel on the east coast of Sicily, and you will understand why Boudoir 36, an artisanal perfume boutique, is such a great fit for this exuberant city. Every scent, taste and color seems more intense—jasmine draping the building facades, oranges piled into ziggurats on the sidewalks, and even the blue of the sky with a dark triangle of Mount Etna. The perfume selection at Boudoir 36 can rival the finest boutiques in Paris and London, but its flamboyance and opulence are uniquely Sicilian.

Once behind the heavy red curtain of Boudoir 36, you leave behind the bustle of Via Santa Filomena and discover a calm, dark oasis. ‘Boudoir’ is an appropriate name; the boutique is small, only 22 square meters, and it has the intimate ambiance of a private salon. There are shelves upon shelves of perfume bottles, crystal glasses of scent strips, gilded candles, and soaps wrapped in colorful paper. Flowers spill out of vases in baroque arrangements and crystal chandeliers cast a soft glow over the antique furniture.

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Travel to Bulgaria’s Lavender Fields with Me: June 26-30, 2023

Endless fields of lavender. The scents of flowers and spice. The generous warmth of the summer sun. We will be in Bulgaria exploring its lavender plantations from June 26th to June 30th, 2023. I’m partnering with Silvia Yonkova of Roseoverdose, to teach a perfume workshop during the Lavender Retreat of 2023. Silvia’s family has been in the flower growing business for generations and she has first-hand knowledge and expertise on many aromatic plants, including lavender. I have already collaborated with her during her Rose Retreat, and I am thrilled to join her again for the lavender adventure. Silvia is a wonderful host and all of her events are much acclaimed.
During our 5-day aromatic tour, we will explore lavender fields, study perfume-making and create fragrant compositions with a special focus on scents that elevate and balance mood. The retreat will take place on the Bulgarian coast and it will be a wonderful opportunity to enjoy some time at the beach as well as in the flower gardens. I hope that you will join me.

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Reflections on Ukraine : Surviving the Unimaginable

The neighborhood where I used to live in Kyiv got bombarded several times over the past couple of days. Now every night I dream of walking through it as it once were. I then wake up in the middle of the night and lie conjuring up the familiar images. Ukraine lives in me, even as I am far away from Ukraine.

I recently gave an interview to a Spanish newspaper ABC about my book The Rooster House (Mi Ucrania in Spanish) and said that to understand Ukraine, it’s important to know that its identity made up of beauty and tragedy. And so I will share this painting by Dmytro Perepelytsya (1903–1981), a Ukrainian artist from Poltava, who captured everyday life in moving, poignant images like these. His Still life with watermelon was painted in 1937, the height of Stalinist terror, but it’s a tender depiction of summer bounty in vivid colors.

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Latest Comments

  • Annie in What is a Rushnyk?: Beautiful! I love the last photo with different rushnyky together. It must have looked so pretty! June 14, 2024 at 10:37am

  • Camilla in What is a Rushnyk?: I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. I always like how you combine personal stories and broader themes. The same reason I really liked your book. I wish I could buy… June 14, 2024 at 10:10am

  • Tourmaline in One Summer Day in Our Ukrainian Village: Dear Marianne, Thank you for your lovely reply. I do try to be cheerful, and your comment leads me to think that you must have enjoyed and remembered some of… June 13, 2024 at 11:59pm

  • Marianne in One Summer Day in Our Ukrainian Village: Hello Tourmaline, it’s lovely to be in contact with you again. I’m sorry to read of your health difficulties, while at the same time smile at your strength and good… June 13, 2024 at 11:12pm

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