Getting Ready for Berkeley

I recently took a big leap and decided to invest my money and time in a natural perfumery course given by Mandy Aftel in Berkeley.

The author of several important books about perfumery and scent, she has a classic Maybeck Berkeley home right next to Chez Panisse. When I asked her excitedly if there might be time to have lunch at the iconic restaurant, she said that everyone has lunch in her garden instead. It is easy to forget about the beautiful weather, even in October, on the West Coast. Will she serve lunch? I wonder what we’ll have...I have this fantasy of a big ripe tomato; it’s late in the season, but maybe.

It seems the class uses no synthetics, only naturals. I wonder if that includes animal products. It’s doubtful that Mandy is going to pull out deer musk for all of us to use. I’m going to bring along a little ambergris in case anyone needs it. From what I read on her website, Mandy has a museum of interesting perfume-related things including some aged ambergris I’m dying to sniff. This will finally resolve my question whether ambergris should be tinctured in the light, as I do, or in the dark.

My deepest fear is that I have no nose. What if I can’t smell or recognize anything?

Mandy puts a lot of emphasis on practicing note and substance recognition using her introductory workbook. I haven’t worked through the book, leaving me wondering if I’m qualified, but Mandy gave me permission to attend when I told her how long I’ve been doing this stuff.

So, it’s with great trepidation, that I set off Thursday from Brooklyn to Berkeley, where I’m going to visit friends and relatives, eat and drink well, and put my nose through the paces.