Tuesday the 26thof February 2019 was the publication day of my first book titled “The Flavor of Wood”. Having worked for nearly five years towards it made it a truly special occasion!
Finally holding the beautifully bound hardcover copy in hand, a flood of memories came pouring in. The joy and excitement of meeting inspirational producers, craftsman and experts. Images and sound bites from fascinating research trips and interviews, scents and taste notes from astonishing food items as well as the joy and frustrations of countless experiments. What followed were month and years of writing and research all together bringing the book to a point where it felt right to share. Then there was of course the thrilling yet simultaneously slightly queasy part of pitching this rather unconventional book idea to publishers. Will they like it? Does it make sense to anyone outside of my mind? And what if someone else had the same idea and manages to publish it before me?
Today of course I can look back at those times with a chuckle. Back then I could have never imagined all the wonderful encounters, conversations and support I was going to have, all leading, after some detours, to my truly amazing publishing house ABRAMS Books.
Having found a publisher meant the beginning of the editing and reediting phase. Although it involved a fair amount of work it was by no means the horrible experience it is often portrait as. Very much to the contrary it was actually great to see how the book came closer and closer to its final form. In the skillful hands of my fabulous editor Chelsea, every revision made the text ever more enjoyable to read. Having become leaner and much more defined (the book, not me) it was time for the easy and fun part: the selection of suitable photos, writing of captions and finally a host of various marketing efforts that culminated in the book launch.
What started as a simple creative writing assignment on whisky and wine during my graduate studies in the beautiful Piedmont region of Italy, has led me on an extraordinary flavor hunt around the world. From pizza, whisky, tea and perfume to quinine, wine, maple syrup, blue yoghurt and much more. Wherever I went there was an unexpected wooden flavor waiting for me. Would you have thought that pickled Gherkins are often influenced by wood? Or that soft cheese would have been hard to make without trees? Me neither!
The more I looked the more I discovered. I was standing in front of a colorful and extremely diverse forest of wooden flavors. An infinite number of beautifully lush trees, varied undergrowth, moss covered stones and a forest floor that was teeming with life. Engulfing it all were slowly drifting clouds of fog.
Some, like the oaks familiar vanilla flavor, resembled lonesome towering trees, easily visible from all directions. Others, like the beech woods savory oatmeal and sausage notes, were grouped into large clusters of medium height trees. Then there were those completely inconspicuous ones, like the fine aromas of tree-based perfumes, mostly obscured by the fog. Fragrant vapor clouds that were hard to even notice at first, but every more fascinating on close inspection. Much like a secret door, they proofed to be the entranceway into other flavor dimensions.
Charting and documenting what I could and condensing it in writing my exploration of this fascinating wooden flavor forest forms the basis of “The Flavor of Wood”.
Yet all of this marks just the beginning of a journey, exploring how wood and trees influence our food. There is so much more I want to discover! So many flavors that have yet to be tasted and documented. From the Amazon, to the boreal forest and from the trees growing in our gardens to the ones lining our streets. Even the potted ones inside our houses might have some flavor surprises on offer.*
Come with me on this epic journey! Let’s together discover the far reaches of the wooden flavor forest! Follow my personal exploration on this blog or @artur_cisar_erlach on Instagram and share your own discoveries under #theflavorofwood.
Subscribe below and fasten your seatbelts. This is going to be a wild ride!
*Tasting is interesting only of course after making sure that the tree is not toxic. For a good, first reference check The Wood Database.