Losing Your Taste

Posted March 8, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Let’s hope no one ever really permanently loses their sense of taste, but for a foodie, even a few days without the ability to taste and smell can feel like an eternity.  Nothing can seem more detrimental and depressing than getting sick enough to lose the ability to appreciate a gorgeous Camembert or the subtle, sweet bitterness of a good cappuccino or even the tang of a raspberry popsicle.  The last time I got that sick (it happens about once every ten years!) was when I was expecting my daughter.  Why not just take some Benadryl and be done with it, you ask?  Well, as a new and very nervous mommy-to-be, I was loathe to put anything into my body that was created by man as opposed to Mother Earth. Right or wrong, I refused to take anything – ever – other than an occasional Tylenol during those days.

The five or six sleepless, breathless nights I endured *must* have been nature’s funny way of introducing me to what new motherhood was going to be like.  I woke each night at about three, five and seven a.m. having achieved at best an hour’s real sleep, and spent the day in and out of consciousness trying to work, write, care for my husband and myself, the dog, house and all of the sundry activities that consume women in their 30th week.

I had been lucky. Most of my pregnancy had been problem-free, but in the moment of illness, everything changed.  My husband and I had scheduled numerous trips at the tail end of my second trimester and a week or two into my third – a last hurrah before the nesting phase – and, in my attempt to prove full control over my life despite the obvious, the pregnancy gods decided to show me who was boss, and I became essentially house-ridden and had to cancel everything that didn’t occur within a few feet of my bed. The worst part was that I couldn’t bring myself to eat. What didn’t make me nauseous gave me a headache, and why eat anyway since I couldn’t taste a thing?  Well, for the baby of course, who I imagined could enjoy anything despite her mom’s condition.  So eat I did, eventually.  I decided that if I couldn’t taste, I could at least feel, so foods with texture and color enough to feed my imagination became my sustenance.  In no particular order:  1) ice cream, 2) mashed potatoes, 3) seaweed salad, and 4) potato chips, and  the occasional filet of fish or  chicken breast thrown in for good measure.   (For the record, while I was eating these things, I was simultaneously blowing my nose – hard – in order to conjure even the tiniest sense of their flavor.  The amount released was so small I don’t know if it was real or my imagination.)

After too many days of this, I decided I had to taste something.  My husband recognized my profound frustration and set to work on a miraculous, all-natural and very edible cure: Korean soup, kimchi chigae.  Beyond the fundamental ingredients, he tossed in whatever we had on hand – Mexican chili peppers, chicken broth, thinly sliced ribeye steak and kale. He poured the steaming, eye-popping concoction into a huge soup bowl and placed it before me. “Eat it all,” he said.  “Even if you’re not hungry.”  I did as I was told, willing to try anything. An hour or two later, I was better, sinuses and head clear and feeling more alive than I’d felt in weeks.  My husband has my eternal gratitude for those days.  He was such a good momma, and I’ll never forget the sudden sense of security, relief and wonderment I felt after that meal.  Sick or not, one needs occasionally to be doted on and fussed over, and I had discovered that homemade soup is one of the best ways to show that kind of warmth and affection and to feel it in return.