Monday, July 11, 2011

smell in school

 Barbery-Coulon & her bookshelf of bottles via Into the Gloss 

Into the Gloss's Top Shelf interview series is a treat for nosy folks like me, who like to peek into people's medicine cabinets (and kitchen cupboards and bedroom closets--invite me over!). In the latest installment, Lili Barbery-Coulon talks a lot about fragrance, perfumers, and smell. An excerpt: 
I love opening the bottles and just smelling them, and I make my daughter smell them too, because it’s very important to get trained because we’re not used to using our nose anymore. It used to be one of the most efficient senses of all the senses. It used to enable you to be able to say, ‘Is this food going to make me sick?’ Or, ‘Is there danger somewhere?’ Or, ‘Am I attracted to this person?’ You would be driven by your nose all the time. And now, we’ve shot our connections to fragrances, to skin—like, skin has to smell fresh and clean all the time. We’re covered with products that don’t let us smell the original skin, like, no odor—our fragrance, our scent. I think it’s very important that we all train ourselves to smell because it makes you feel better when you have food. For my kid, I mean, I think parfum should be taught in school. It would be so great, to be able to read, to smell, you know? To read, smell, write—just part of everything. But of course, it’s not something that people think is important. I try to let her smell.
What would it be like to learn to smell in school? I hardly remember talking about smell in the classroom at all, except in the context of lessons about the five senses (in fifth grade, we ate an apple and a potato with our eyes blindfolded and our noses clothespinned), or when we would receive a scratch n' sniff sticker with certain hot lunches (a dill pickle sticker is nearly reason enough to endure 'barf on a rock' and other school lunch specialties). If you have children, how do you teach them to smell? About smell?


Elisa said...

I read Into the Gloss and oohed and aahed over her collection. Doesn't she seem French though? Is she not French? I think in France they DO learn how to smell. That's what Chandler Burr told me anyway.

nosy girl said...

What did Burr say on the matter? Is it in your interview with him? I'll have to go back and take a look...

She is indeed French, but it sounds like her daughter isn't getting the smell-education she wants for her at school (what, every French school doesn't' have a full set of Lutens bell jars?). At one point, she talks explicitly about how her Frenchness kept her from supporting a friend who was staring a perfume line (Ben Gorham, Byredo):
"I realized there was a real vision behind [the brand], and it did look really good. And then I thought, ‘Okay, I’m very French,’ in a way. He made me feel very French, because in France we respect hierarchy, and we respect the ones who did something before you—they’re always maybe better than you. And it’s very hard to create something in France because we feel inhibited. We have so many masterpieces here that you always think, you know, ‘What’s the point? What’s the point of doing something new?’ There’s the Chanel—I absolutely love Chanel perfume; I’m wearing the No. 19—there’s so much great stuff. Why would you start something new? In the US, it’s the exact opposite. You know, you have this freedom to create. You don’t ask yourself too many questions, and you go there. They don’t ask themselves if it’s good or if it’s not. They just do it. He made me realize I was very French and snobby about the whole thing. You know?"

Beth Mattson said...

I have been sticking Charlie's nose into blooming roses all over Portland. Surely, he must notice that much already. I'll keep upping the sniffing antes as he learns more words. I will read this blog to him as a bedtime story.

Preets said...

I'm finally getting around to answering this question, although I saw it and bookmarked it in my head when you first posted it. As far as I know, they don't teach smell in French schools :-). We do what Beth does -- encourage lots of sniffing outdoors -- and we also involve little R in all kitchen activities and encourage her to smell all the individual ingredients, the things simmering on the stove, etc. I'm realising now, though, that we don't provide words for all these smells, really. I don't know if that's good or bad. Like, maybe we should be talking about the smells more, but right now we just hand her things and say, "Want to smell X?" And she takes a sniff and doesn't seem to demonstrate any preference for some smells over others, at least not yet. But at least her curiosity is awakened -- now when she encounters a new plant, fruit, art supply, whatever, she almost always sniffs in addition to exploring with her other senses.

Lili Barbery-Coulon said...

No, they don't teach smells at school in France! My daughter is 4 and I've offered her teacher to come to her class to introduce them to sents and perfume through a short presentation. It's very funny to watch the kids react to the smell of castoreum or vanilla. They know straight away what they like or not. They smile and laugh and it helps them realise that they can use their nose when they eat, when they go somewhere nice (they start to think of how it smells) and remember it better.
thanks for the great comments, Lili Barbery-Coulon
ps: if you can read French, check my blog: it should be soon translated in English though

nosy girl said...

Thank you for stopping by, Lili! I would love to feature a Nosy Interview with you. In the hopes that you'll be interested, I'll get in touch using the address listed on your blog.

Lili Barbery-Coulon said...

I would love that! xxxLili

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