Haft Seen for Celebrating New Life and New Spring

Persian New Year is on March 20th this year, and as always, I set up my haft seen, or Nowruz sofreh–a presentation of 7 auspicious objects that start with the Persian letter “S.” I’ve written previously about this tradition, and why the celebration of the vernal equinox, the start of a new year, is such a meaningful custom. Nowruz is a secular holiday with Zoroastrian roots that is celebrated today by people of many different faiths not only in Iran, but in many other countries from Albania and Turkey to Afghanistan and India. Every community has its slightly different ways of marking the start of the new year, but what unites them is the celebration of life and renewal.

This year I’ve set up my haft seen quite early, during the last week of February, because I needed it as a reminder of hope and regeneration.

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Vanilla Orchids

Stepping inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory during Kew Gardens’ annual orchid festival is an opulent fragrant experience. While the most popular orchids sold by florists are unscented, there are also many perfumed varieties, with their aromas spanning the full olfactory spectrum from effervescent lemon to dark chocolate.

In my recent FT article, Vanilla Orchids, I describe one of the most famous perfumed orchids, Vanilla planifolia. Perhaps it’s not surprising, since this plant produces one of the world’s most fragrant spices. The flowers have a delicious aroma reminiscent of creamy jasmine and green grape. Although more subtle than the scent of vanilla pods, it has inspired perfumers to create fragrances around vanilla flowers, relying on recent studies of orchids and their aromas.

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How to Save The Kashmiri Shawl

“On 5 August last year, I was finalising the itinerary for my upcoming trip to Kashmir. The same day, the Indian government revoked its special (limited) autonomous status, which the Muslim-majority state had held since joining the Union in 1947. The government then imposed a security lockdown, cut communication lines and restricted travel. I’m neither a reckless risk taker nor an irrepressible optimist, but I didn’t cancel my trip. I knew it was foolish to hope that the situation in the Kashmir Valley – a place whose borderland status between India and Pakistan has seen it become a violent battleground over the decades – would stabilise in time for my journey a mere month away, but I was obsessed. The reason? A piece of fabric so weightless and yet so warm that it seems to defy all laws of science. I wanted to meet the artisans and learn how real Kashmiri shawls were made. The escalating conflict only increased my resolve for a glimpse of this rare art that is under threat of vanishing.”

The article “How To Save the Kashmiri Shawl,” which appeared in last week’s issue of Financial Times magazine, is the result of my journey to India. I was determined to use whatever means I could to talk to the artisans and to understand why this craft is so meaningful to them. As I’ve learned, weaving has a venerated status in Kashmir. As a crossroads, Kashmir developed its culture through interactions with other people and traditions, and the Kashmiri shawl is the perfect example of this intricate synthesis.

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Lindens, Ukrainian Weaving, and Nataliya’s Other Favorite Things

I like meeting people who pursue their dreams. My friend and partner on our Ukrainian Scent and Taste Adventure, Nataliya Cummings, studied theater in Ukraine, lived in an anarchist community, researched traditional weaving and created an art festival. She now lives in the UK, but she spends most of her year traveling in Ukraine and helping other people fall in love with this fascinating and yet unknown country. Today I want to introduce Nataliya to you.

Nataliya started her travel company Experience Ukraine shortly after moving to Hereford in the UK about 10 years ago, but the genesis of the idea came earlier. After completing her theater studies degree at the university, she started to create art events for children in collaboration with the Longo Maï community. Since children couldn’t travel to cities to see plays and performances, Nataliya decided to bring theater to them. Her experience was so exhilarating that she moved to the village of Nyzhnie Selyshche in the Transcarpathia, a region in western Ukraine. (It’s the same village where we will be staying during our Ukrainian Scent and Taste Adventure this summer.)

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Recommend Me a Perfume : February 2020

Our “Recommend Me a Perfume” thread is open this week. You can use this space to find perfume recommendations, to share your discoveries and favorite scents, and to ask any questions about scents, aromas and flavors.

How does it work: 1. Please post your requests or questions as comments here. You can also use this space to ask any fragrance related questions. To receive recommendations that are better tailored to your tastes, you can include details on what you like and don’t like, your signature perfumes, and your budget. And please let us know what you end up sampling. 2. Then please check the thread to see if there are other requests you can answer. Your responses are really valuable for navigating the big and sometimes confusing world of perfume, so let’s help each other!

To make this thread easier to read, when you reply to someone, please click on the blue “reply” link under their comment.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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  • Sebastian in Recommend Me a Perfume : March 2020: I never layered perfume. I found the practice disrespectful to the perfumer, a bit arrogant. I also don’t trust my nose. That was until last week. In the last couple… March 30, 2020 at 11:17am

  • Anne in Recommend Me a Perfume : March 2020: Hello and welcome! I love this site! It s so lovely to hear from perfume passionate people, and you get so many great advise. For warm weather I absolutely love… March 30, 2020 at 10:54am

  • Sebastian in Recommend Me a Perfume : March 2020: For honey, you should try Hiram Greene Slowdive and Zoologist Bee. There is no lack of online reviews for either of them, and they are both very, very beautiful and… March 30, 2020 at 10:52am

  • Lauren in Recommend Me a Perfume : March 2020: I’m new here, but not completely new to perfume, and am looking for a sweet but not sickeningly sweet perfume that can be worn/is suitable in warm weather. Some of… March 30, 2020 at 9:59am

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