Take a Trip to the Museum of Smells


Welcome. If your regular Thanksgiving plans have been put on hold this year, might I suggest watching Melissa Clark make an entire holiday meal for three using just one pot, one pan and one oven set to 400 degrees (in under three hours)? Her make-ahead gravy alone makes the prospect of cooking a small, low-key Thanksgiving dinner seem not only manageable but a welcome respite from massive dirty-every-dish productions.

Once you’re suitably inspired (or exhausted) by Melissa’s feat, the editors of The New York Times Book Review have selected their 100 notable books of 2020. Imagine yourself reading any of them nestled in this irresistible pig chair whose journey from thesis project to internet curiosity is just delightful.

And to further your quest for delight, be sure to stop by the Museum of Smells, which joins the Pandemic Logs and Quarantine Soundscapes in our series of projects exploring life at home during the pandemic. Readers of At Home told us about the singular smells that evoke memories for them: the Play-Doh scent of elementary school, the “citrus-like astringency” of a loved one’s skin, the aroma of peppermint tea that evokes a semester studying in Switzerland. We’ve illustrated these smells with photos in an exhibition that is well worth a visit this weekend. And, of course, let us know what you think.

I’ll leave you with this description of the power of scent that Sam Sifton shared with me from Patrick O’Brian’s novel, “Post Captain,” which perfectly captures, I think, why the smell museum is so intriguing:

“Smell is of all senses by far the most evocative: perhaps because we have no vocabulary for it — nothing but a few poverty-stricken approximations to describe the whole vast complexity of odour — and therefore the scent, unnamed and unnamable, remains pure of association; it cannot be called upon again and again, and blunted, by the use of a word; and so it strikes afresh every time, bringing with it all the circumstances of its first perception.”

We’re collecting your responses to the traditional Thanksgiving question: what are you thankful for this year? Write and tell us: athome@nytimes.com. We’re At Home. We’ll read every letter sent.

Times subscribers: Be sure to tune in on Monday, Nov. 23 at 9:30 a.m. E.T. as editors of the Book Review announce year’s 10 Best Books live, with a special welcome from Mindy Kaling. R.S.V.P. here.

And, as always, more diversions for the senses — all of them — appear below. See you next week.



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