Monday, March 7, 2022

Baking with Flavor: Spiced Rose Hamantaschen

Bronx bakeries of my youth sold large, unruly hamantaschen. Eating them was a war between front teeth and a solid wall of dry cookie dough that cracked and crumbled with every bite. Elastic textures of apricot, prune and poppy seed filling offered little reward for the effort it took to get to the center of the triangular-shaped pastry. Taking a bite out of the holiday cookie eaten on Purim symbolizes victory over Haman in the Book of Esther. The only thing my friends and I tasted when we ate bakery hamantaschen was irony.

No one should sacrifice teeth or good taste for the sake of eating hamantaschen. Buying one from a bakery is still a gamble to which the offense of preposterous fillings and decorations can be added. What can a person who craves descent tasting hamantaschen do?  

The solution is making butter-based hamantaschen from scratch. Butter supports a light flakey texture in the pastry. Shortening and excess sugar are key offenders in bad bakery hamantaschen (they're responsible for hard textures in pastry that taste of nothingness). Does the thought of tender-at-the-bite hamantaschen make your mouth water and whisking wrist tremble? Just wait until you work the aromatic dough with your hands when you make Spiced Rose Hamantaschen (it's a textural hybrid of piecrust and shortbread).

Hamantaschen dough deserves more attention as a flavor source versus a neutral foundation for pastry filling. Citrus zest and vanilla are used to flavor the dough in traditional hamantaschen. Quality fruit fillings are hard to come by, so it's not uncommon for bakers to make their own by cooking dried plums (prunes) or apricots with sugar and water. The finished product is a concentrated fruit butter called lekvar. The balance of citrus zest and vanilla used in the dough complements the flavor profile of tart stone fruits. 

The recipe for Spiced Rose Hamantaschen follows the style of complementary flavor support in traditional hamantaschen—with a twist. Cinnamon, dried rosebuds, allspice, nutmeg and cardamom (Pereg Mixed Spices for Koobah) are added to the dry ingredients in the recipe. Almond extract and Eden Botanicals Organic Rose Hydrosol (a food grade distillate of essential oil of rose) are whisked into the egg mixture. The unique combination of flavors in the dough is a nod to Mizrahi and Sephardic baking traditions. 

Rose isn't an outlier when it comes to flavor. Like apricot, plum and other stone fruits, the rose is a member of the Rosa genus of plants in the family of Rosacea. Edible seed-bearing fruit from various rose species are called rose hips. They have a tart, fruity flavor profile versus fresh rose petals, which taste like roses smell. Dried pink rose petals have a bright spicy floral character with nuances of delicate citrus. Dried red rose petals have an earthy-musky, fruity-floral flavor profile with a touch of warm spice. 

Cracovia Rose Hip Lekvar is an exquisite filling used in Spiced Rose Hamantaschen. The imported Polish lekvar is a popular filling for paczki (donuts) and kolaczki (cookies), which is why it's easy to find at local Polish food shops across the country. The ingredient list includes: apples, plums, chokeberries and rose flavor (the latter possesses an exquisite citrus-floral quality that's similar to the character of rose aroma in Eden Botanicals Organic Rose Hydrosol, which is made from pink Rosa damascena flowers). 

Recipe Origin & Adaptation for Spiced Rose Hamantaschen
Spiced Rose Hamantaschen is an adaptation of a hamantaschen recipe in Maida Heatter's Cookies (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1997). I've changed the flavor structure and edited the instructions. Anyone using this recipe may increase the number of cookies by using a 2.75 inch pastry cutter (48 cookies give or take). The single jar of rose hip lekvar will work for both cookie yields as long as the filling is leveled before being placed on the dough rounds (you won't need more because it's packed with flavor).

The baking temperature is reduced from 400 degrees to 375 degrees for optimal pastry texture (you can always increase time based on oven temperament or bake at 400 degrees). Forming hamantaschen on parchment-lined cookie trays after cutting rounds on a pastry mat replaces instructions to form pastry in hand (the latter doesn't work). Using all-purpose flour with too much protein will cause the dough to fall apart when you form hamantaschen and it can't be remedied. Guidance regarding flour protein content is included below the ingredients list. A mixer isn't needed for this recipe.

Spiced Rose Hamantaschen
Recipe by Maida Heatter
Flavor Development/Instruction Modification by Michelle Krell Kydd
Yield: 27 cookies

*Be sure to use unbleached all-purpose flour that contains 3g of protein per 1/4 cup serving of flour. Some all-purpose flours have upwards of 3g of protein per serving, and hamantaschen pastry dough will not hold together at high levels of protein. Read the nutrition label on the bag of flour to ensure baking success.

  • Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and Koobah spice into a large mixing bowl. 
  • In a small bowl, beat the egg with almond extract and rosewater. Set aside.
  • Cut the stick of butter into small cubes by cutting horizontally, then vertically. Add cubed butter to the dry ingredients and coat them. Press the cubed pieces of butter flat to form petals. Combine the butter petals with the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 
  • Make a well in the center of the bowl with the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Mix the dough with your hands until it is completely moistened. Gently work it in the bowl and form a single mound of dough that holds together well (it will feel less cohesive than typical cookie dough, which changes after refrigeration). 
  • Separate the single mound into two mounds of equal weight. Wrap each one in plastic wrap and place them side by side in a gallon-sized plastic bag with a zip seal. Refrigerate the dough overnight for a minimum of six hours to a maximum of 18 hours (longer is better for flavor).
  • Line two cookie trays with parchment paper when the dough is ready to use. Set aside.
  • Work with one half of a mound of refrigerated dough at a time, keeping the other half refrigerated. 
  • Roll the dough into an even 1/8-inch thickness on a pastry mat, working quickly as the dough tends to be sticky (short quick rolling helps). 
  • Cut the dough into rounds with a plain or scalloped 3-inch cookie cutter. You’ll fill the dough and shape it after you cut 7 rounds. (Each half a pastry mound yields approximately 7 cookies). 
  • Move the rounds to a parchment-lined cookie sheet using a long confection spatula (a small, flat silicone cookie spatula will also work as it's flexible). 
  • Scoop a teaspoon of the filling using a one-teaspoon measuring spoon, removing the excess filling from the bottom of the measuring spoon (a form of leveling) and adding the excess filling back into the jar. 
  • Place the leveled filling into the center of each round using an additional spoon to scoop it out.
  • Make a triangle shape by folding up two sides of the dough (each side is equivalent to a third of the circle) and pinch the corners together where they meet. 
  • Fold up the third side and pinch together at both sides, forming a triangle and leaving an opening at the top (don't close the center). The filling should be just above the top of the pastry. 
  • Continue rolling, cutting, filling and shaping the dough rounds until you've finished using all of the refrigerated dough.
  • Adjust the arrangement of hamantaschen so that each one is 1 1/2 inches apart (1 inch for cookies made with a 2 3/4 inch pastry cutter) when you're done. Take advantage of the geometry of the cookie, as triangular shapes can be placed at different angles without touching while baking.
  • Divide the oven racks into thirds and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 
  • Bake for 12 minutes, reversing sheets from top to bottom and back to front after the first 6 minutes. The cookies should be barely colored on the sides, slightly darker on the edges. Add 1-2 minutes if needed, based on the temperament of your oven.
  • Move the baked hamantaschen to cooling racks and allow them to them cool completely. Store them in an airtight container between layers of parchment paper for 24 hours before eating. The resting period allows the flavors to meld. 
Creating memorable flavor combinations requires patience and imagination. You never know what can happen when you find an ingredient that inspires you. Case in point. Food writer Heather Eddy fell in love with the lemon-vanilla-orange blossom bouquet in Fiori di Sicilia. She liked it so much she decided to wear the flavor extract as perfume because it's made of food grade essential oils. If this rings your hamantaschen bell here's a little inspiration for you. Fiori di Sicilia is an olfactory cousin of Eau de Cologne. Imagine what Fiori di Sicilia infused hamantaschen dough filled with bergamot marmalade or lemon curd would taste like. 

Notes & Musings
Pereg Mixed Spices for Koobah is available online at Pereg Gourmet ($8.60 for 3.5 oz). The spice mix can be used in savory and sweet applications. If you'd like to substitute a variation of the spice blend that you can make at home, follow the proportions in the ingredient listing for Koobah located in the fifth paragraph of this post. Be sure to use Ceylon cinnamon as that is the type used in the spice mix. Organic pink rosebuds can be purchased from online spice shops. You'll have to separate the petals from the stem at the base, which is a lovely thing to do. 

Eden Botanicals Organic Rose Hydrosol is available online at Eden Botanicals. The recommended purchase size is 4 ounces ($14.00) as it needs to be refrigerated after opening. Rose hydrosol can be used to flavor coffee, tea or hot chocolate. (It also makes a great face toner and is lovely when sprayed on bed sheets before going to sleep, so go up a size if it's something that appeals to you.) 

Cracovia Rose Hip Lekvar is available online at the Polish Art Center in Hamtramck, Michigan. It's fresh and competitively priced ($3.80 for a 12.34 oz jar). Note to sharp-eyed readers of ingredient labels: rose hips aren't listed on the jar of Polish rose hip lekvar. This is permitted by European Union regulations when the amount of a specific fruit in a mixed fruit jam is under 2%.  

Jam is thinner than preserves, and has a tendency to leak out of the hamantaschen pastry while it's baking. If you choose preserves for your hamantaschen recipe make sure that pectin is included in the ingredient list (it’s a natural fruit-based gelling agent).

The best rose preserves are made with sugar, rose petals, lemon juice and pectin, but they lack the thickness required for hamantaschen filling (they'll weep in the oven). If you're a determined experimenter, hack a jar of Maharishi Ayurveda brand Organic Rose Petal Spread and turn it into lekvar with other ingredients.

Photo of Spiced Rose Hamantaschen on a plate by Michelle Krell Kydd. All rights reserved. Ingredient image collages created with various Creative Commons photos from Pixabay. Image of person pouring flour on a table by Mae Mu on Unsplash.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Scent in Film: Rebellion of the Flowers

Rebellion of the Flowers (1992, Millie Goldsholl) from Chicago Film Archives on Vimeo.

Rebellion of the Flowers begins with the efforts of a farmer named Jan, who thoughtfully relates to working the land and growing a plot of flowers from seed. His relationship to the flowers is infused with spiritual reverence and humility, embracing the interdependent relationship between nature, the elements, and the work of human hands until something goes awry, and the essence of tyranny invades his gentle spirit.

Jealousy skews Jan's perspective as he becomes enraged by the biological inclination of flowers to turn towards the sun, a plant behavior known as heliotropism. The once gentle tiller of earth becomes consumed by the possessive notion that his flowers are disobedient and should bend towards him in reverence for the life he gave them, conflating his role with that of the divine.

Once in a while he felt that in the sight of the flowers he was G-d...An implausible annoyance swept through Jan...His anger wished the sun out of the sky. 

Farmer Jan is engorged with power and rage. His character is literally and figuratively consumed at the end of the film, but not without a touch of irony. Rebellion of the Flowers takes an interesting turn as an unnamed smell described as "a curious spice" appears in the story's resolution. Jan's body is drawn into the soil by tendrils in the flowerbed, where his body returns to the earth to nurture the plants he once gently tended. 

The next morning the sun came out. The flowers were beautiful in their brilliant color and there was a curious spice mixed with the sweetness of their perfume.

A "curious spice" isn't a descriptor for the putrescence of bodily decay, which raises an olfactory question. What smell did Jan's body contribute to the earthbound flowers he raised? To answer this query one must sniff beyond the film's referenced scents of freshly turned soil, sprouting green seedlings and delightful flower scents. 

My olfactory mind is informed by scentscapes in New York and Michigan, so I lean into encounters with wild sweet woodruff (Gallium odorata) in the Ann Arbor summer landscape. The plant's leaves possess an herbaceous, spicy and warm scent that intensifies when the leaves are dried. This is notable in sweet woodruff specimens found in herbariums. 

Sweet woodruff dresses the air without usurping the aroma of other plants like an olfactory tyrant. This is how I imagine the aroma of a transformed and somewhat redeemed Jan, entombed in humus against the victorious scent of the flowers. Perhaps you have some ideas of your own, dear reader...

Notes & Curiosities:

Everyone possesses a unique compendium of aromatic experiences based on personal life experience. What does your olfactory mind reference when you watch Rebellion of the Flowers? Can you imagine what it would be like if you were a perfumer assigned to create a collection of four wearable scents inspired by scenes in Rebellion of the Flowers? There's a bevy of metaphors and literal interpretations worthy of exploration. What would you create?

Dried sweet woodruff is available from Mountain Rose Herbs. I made a perfume-grade tincture with them that reminds me of summer every time I smell the infusion on a perfume blotter. Feeling crafty? Aromatic sachets filled with a blend of lavender and sweet woodruff are also quite lovely, and easy to sew by hand.

The "sun" in the name sunflower is informed by heliotropism. So is the Latin word for the turnsole plant, which was called solsequium ("sun-follower") in herbals. Turnsole joined woad and indigo as vegetable-based pigments used by medieval manuscript illuminators. Solsequium would be a great name for a line of perfumes inspired by sun-warmed plants and medieval illuminated manuscripts. Take that to your imaginarium. 

If you're familiar with the scent of morning-cut hay dried under a summer sun, or the creamy, sweet, vanilla, and nut-like nuances in sweetgrass, you’re acquainted with sweet woodruff's coumarin-scented kin. Coumarin repels pests that would otherwise make a feast of a plant as coumarin tastes bitter to them. Humans aren't bothered by the tastes of small amounts of coumarin, which is why they find May wine and tonka bean flavored desserts and confectionary appealing. 

Need to know more about the science of coumarin? Read this research paper:  Carneiro, Aitor, Maria J. Matos, Eugenio Uriarte, and Lourdes Santana. 2021. "Trending Topics on Coumarin and Its Derivatives in 2020" Molecules 26, no. 2: 501.

Image of whole and shaved tonka beans ©Michelle Krell Kydd. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 30, 2021

The Time for Nose-on Learning is Now

Imagine starting a class by saying "If you have a compromised sense of smell as a result of COVID-19 there's hope. The smelling exercises taught at Smell & Tell are related to olfactory calisthenics used to recover the sense of smell." 

Talking about smell loss isn't off limits if smelling exercises are integral to your presentation. It's a teachable moment even if no one in the virtual classroom has or had anosmia. It's one of many takeaways I experienced using Zoom for Smell & Tell in the first half of 2021.

The time for nose-on learning is now in spite of the pandemic. Curious? Listen in as I talk about how smell enhances experiential education, cultural awareness, and my favorite scentscapes in Ann Arbor, Michigan (some of which will make you very hungry). 

You can read the editorial that accompanies the Listen in Michigan podcast here. Special thanks to editor Deborah Holdship at the University of Michigan for nose-on news coverage at Michigan Today

Sunday, March 7, 2021

The Incense Project and Lessons from Peruvian Myrrh

Abundancia by Gerasimo Sosa Alache from Chulucanas,
Piura Region, in Peru. Image by David Stanley on Flickr.

I started The Incense Project during the March 2020 pandemic lockdown. Cataloging aromas of plant resins and related incense materials was something I'd always wanted to do, but the idea was quashed by work and everyday responsibilities. In the silence of the lockdown The Incense Project took on the quality of a seed specimen trapped inside a glassine envelope, yearning for air, soil, light and water. It spoke in the silence, when I could listen without distraction and respond without weighing how much time I could spare against meaningless "to do" lists. 

Transforming the silence of isolation into creative gestation requires intention when the world around you is falling apart. In retrospect the need to survive in a climate of fear, shock and immitigable grief (a climate that makes wearing perfume seem frivolous) was malleable. The pandemic made me take stock of my professional sensory evaluation training. Incense was and remains the mother of perfume. I needed to see what was in front of my nose and reevaluate what I was taught in the past while experiencing the emotional dislocation of the pandemic. I was neither teacher nor student. I crossed the threshold and approached The Incense Project as an autodidact with a tabula rasa mindset. 

The Aymara people of the Andes highlands have an interesting perspective when it comes to physical orientation of the past and the future. They see the past positioned in front of them and the future behind them. The framework for the Aymara concept of time revolves around the fact that the past is known because it was experienced, and you can't know something that hasn't occurred, which makes the future moot in the absence of prophecy and magic. The Aymara point of view is similar to the "present moment" consciousness of Buddhism, which is easier for Westerners to integrate versus a reverse concept of time based on physical orientation.

Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain, Cordillera de Vilcononta, Cusco, Peru.
Image by Federico Scarionati via Unsplash.
I considered the Aymara way of looking at time and wondered how it influenced personal and collective nostalgia in their culture. If the past is physically in front of the Aymara do they long to return to the past as Westerners do, or is the past better integrated in a well-rooted present? Contemplating this reminded me to avoid attachment to “good old days” thinking with respect to exploring incense resins infused with a rich past that includes elements of medicine, myth, magic, and religion. I used my nose to evaluate incense ingredients the same way I evaluate flavors and fragrances, which is the same way humans have smelled for centuries. I purchased materials from fair trade vendors with short supply chains out of respect for cultures that own these incense traditions. 

I couldn't transport myself into the locus of the past, but I could release the habit of smelling plant materials in solution on a perfume blotter for the first half of the The Incense Project, and interact with plant materials in their natural state that were ethically grown and harvested. Plant resins from Africa, Asia, India, the Middle East, as well as Central and South America, arrived by post every six weeks. I listened to plants tell their aromas stories on an incense heater and conducted research on their organoleptic properties after experiencing materials on their own and in simple combinations. 

Hymenea Coubaril resin from Mexico before and after use on
an incense heater. Burning incense on charcoal removes this
sensory aspect from the experience of incense appreciation.
Image © Michelle Krell Kydd. All rights reserved.
Incense resins smell better when you use temperature control versus burning them in a censor using charcoal. Combustion destroys delicate aromas and creates burnt odors, which interfere with appreciating a resin's character. This doesn't mean that everything you smell on an incense heater will be pleasant. That's dependent on the chemistry of the resin when it's heated. If you study Sumatra Benzoin (Styrax benzoin) on an incense heater you learn that it melts quickly and goes through a short acrid phase before releasing a warm, sweet, penetrating balsamic, vanilla-like odor. This is not true for Siam Benzoin (Styrax tonkinensis), which also melts quickly, but retains a sweeter balsamic character and possesses more vanillic tenacity than Sumatra Benzoin (Styrax benzoin). This quality is noticeable in the spent resin, something you wouldn't know if you burned Siam Benzoin (Styrax tonkinensis) on charcoal.

Consumers are familiar with commercially traded incense resins, which omits incense resins deemed less appealing and profitable. Commodification of incense materials used in perfumes and burned as incense changes the way we relate to incense bearing plants and the people who work the land where these plants grow. Ingredient stories are re-written by marketers, sublimating and negating native scent cultures, in addition to replacing fact with myth, fetish and taboo in the name of commerce. This is ironic, but not surprising when one considers the fact that colonialist patterns of co-opting cultures and resources in the name of "luxury" has been going on for centuries. How far back in time can we go to find genuine incense resin stories related to use and origin? The answer is as far back as scholarship across disciplines can take us along a chain of ancestral incense resin use.

If one delves into incense materials related to personal ancestry the idea of shared generational olfactory experience melts the fabric of time. This is especially poignant if your ancestors experienced conflict, persecution and oppression. Smelling incense is a lived experience that connects you to people in your family you've never met and some you'll never know by name. This is Proust's madeleine at an inhalable DNA level and it's why people from cultures with ancestral connections to incense materials are needed to pursue scholarship on the subject of incense. Add the fact that some of these plants can and will disappear and you have a compelling reason for generating knowledge via research.

Styrax weberbaueri resin aka Peruvian Myrrh
Image © Michelle Krell Kydd. All rights reserved.

                  Research is rooted in asking questions and relentlessly pursuing answers even if some of the questions don't yield any answers. Answers result in more questions and that's what makes inquiry interesting and addictive. Take Styrax weberbaueri and its commodified name; Peruvian Myrrh. Styrax weberbaueri is the same genus as Styrax benzoin and Styrax tonkinensis, but it's not a type of myrrh. You wouldn't know it from commodified language used on various online incense shops, which causes confusion. True myrrh is categorized in the Commiphora genus. So how did Peruvian Myrrh get its name? 

Fragrant gifts of frankincense and myrrh were given to the Christ child and are widely known by name. Perhaps Styrax weberbaueri is called Peruvian Myrrh because the name myrrh implies pre-Christian and post-Christian ritual use (the belief systems commingle in Peruvian culture, a quality described as syncretic). How do Peruvians use Styrax weberbaueri? Are there pictures of the plant and resin harvesting available? I haven't found answers to either question, but it doesn't mean the answers don't exist. Peruvian Myrrh (Styrax weberbaueri) hasn't been thoroughly researched and documented as a source of incense resin. 

Peruvian Myrrh is a type of styrax so if you've familiar with Styrax benzoin and Styrax tonkinensis anticipating vanilla aromas with a twist is a way to set expectations for what Styrax weberbaueri smells like on an incense heater. Or is it?  Warming resin on an incense heater allows you to smell your way through aroma development, much like ethanol supports the evaporation of top, middle and base notes on a perfume blotter over time. Top notes are fleeting, middle notes have a characteristic linger, and base notes persist over time. 

Engler, H.G.A. Pflantzenreich (1900-1968), Pflanzener.
It's possible to anticipate what Styrax weberbaueri smells like using all of our senses, which reflects a way of scientifically interacting with plants promoted by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Goethe refers to this as utilizing "exact sensorial imagination." The color of Styrax weberbaueri resin nuggets varies, which indicates the potential for differences in smell (darker resins may have more or less intensity of odor than lighter ones). Some pieces of Peruvian Myrrh are a pale yellow while others are golden yellow, orange yellow and sand muted beige. The appearance of the resin's surface area varies and seems brittle where tiny open pockets once containing air appear. Peruvian Myrrh (Styrax weberbaueri) exhibits a variety of hues, which is also true of Commiphora myrrha from Somalia, and looks like myrrh when it becomes a toasty amber color on an incense heater.

Styrax weberbaueri resin feels light in the hand. Past experience with heating Styrax benzoin and Styrax tonkinensis resins suggested utilizing a setting of 180 degrees, which proved optimal. Peruvian Myrrh resin isn't prone to melting like its two relatives, so turning pieces over from time to time and moving them to different locations on the incense heater plate supported aroma development and balanced heat distribution. A pair of incense tongs that resemble elongated tweezers is used for this task, which resembles meditative cooking in miniature. 

Kouign-Amann by Stijn Nieuwendijk-CC-Via Flickr

Peruvian Myrrh is full of surprises as it's heated. A creamy milky coconut character (described as "lactonic" in the parlance of perfumers and flavorists) arrives after a fleeting fusty eau-de-souk aroma fades, and is followed by gourmand notes of vanilla, cinnamon and toasted coconut. If Proust were alive Peruvian Myrrh would be his incense resin of choice. The smell of it would bring him back from the dead and we'd have an eighth volume of In Search of Lost Time in our hands.

The cakey aroma of Peruvian Myrrh is transporting, especially when you split a heated resin nugget between your fingers and smell it (the Lilliputian pieces deliver a measure of scent that defies their size). Fresh brioche mingles with the scent of Kouign-amann, the beloved Breton pastry redolent of French butter and caramelized sugar. Styrax weberbaueri deserves to be as widely known and appreciated as it's botanical cousins in genus. It's a delicious mouthwatering shapeshifter. Just don't confuse it with true myrrh or eat it.

Notes & Curiosities:

Spent Boswellia rivae, a species of Frankincense. 
Image © Michelle Krell Kydd. All rights reserved.

I've evaluated over half a periodic table's worth of plant materials used in incense and perfumery (66 ingredients) since I began The Incense Project. The results inform three Smell & Tell classes I'm teaching at the University of Michigan this spring: Scenting Abrahamic Masculinities, Scriptural Scents and Rite Smells. The classes deliver multisensory experiences in virtual classroom environments.

Peruvian Myrrh (Styrax weberbaueri) used in The Incense Project was purchased from Apothecary's Garden shop on Etsy. It is native to Piura, Peru, which supports a vibrant arts community. Apothecary's Garden website is an informative resource on incense that’s worth exploring. Proprietor Dan Riegler is a respected, knowledgeable and ethical purveyor of incense materials and alchemistic maker of artisan products derived from them.

Styrax weberbaueri aka Peruvian Myrrh is named after Augusto Weberbauer (1871-1948) a German naturalist, botanist and university professor who explored Peru in search of new plant species. 

Siam Benzoin (Styrax tonkinensis) is native to Southeast Asia via Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand). It shares organoleptic qualities with Sumatra Benzoin (Styrax benzoin), which is native to East Asia via Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. If you are interested in developing a vocabulary for smells to describe raw materials used in incense and perfumery you should learn more about Steffen Arctander and his book, Perfume Materials of Natural Origin. It's a dictionary of smells.

If you want to know more about using an incense heater watch Incense Dragon's YouTube video.

The word perfume is derived from per fumus in Latin, which means "through smoke". The etymology harkens back to perfumery's origins as incense. 

French publisher Gallimard has announced a new book of unseen work by Marcel Proust, Les Soixante-quinze feuillets (The Seventy-Five Pages). There's no news regarding if and when it will be published in English.

Native Americans in the United States and Indigenous peoples in Canada have compelling scent cultures inclusive of incense. Where do their stories live and what can these stories tell us about their ancestral scent traditions before colonialism? This is a subject of inquiry that deserves more attention.