Taste…or Lack Thereof

I always have prided myself on my good health. People around me can get sick, but I never do. I credit it to the red grapefruit I eat every morning in the wintertime. Whenever I feel a sniffle or tickle in my throat coming on, I flood myself with orange juice and water and usually can keep it at bay. A serving of Nyquil at night and I’m right as rain in the morning.

Not this time. For the first time in years (was I in college?!), I got a doozy of a head cold. My homemade method of the Vitamin C drip didn’t work and a weekend away from home with little sleep and too much mental stimulation was my undoing. Sunday night I slumped into bed, tired, with an incredibly stuffed nose.

I discovered Monday morning I had no taste when I took the first sips of my coffee. It’s been lost for a day now. I’m home alone tonight, which usually is cause for a solo celebration; I’ll fix whatever I have a hankering for, turn up “my” music, take a walk, and relax and write or read. For tonight’s dinner, what will it be? While the stomach growls, what fun is it to eat if you can’t taste?

This led me to think about Grant Achatz, who was one of the most acclaimed chefs in the country.  He is incredibly innovative, no one had eaten a meal like he has served. His cooking is called “progressive cuisine,” and he was awarded the 2008 Best Chef in the United States from the James Beard Foundation. The top of the top. In 2007, he was diagnosed with Stage IV tongue cancer. He recently chronicled his experience in his book, Life on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness. Achatz survived and is still cooking, yet he no longer has the sense of taste. What would it be like to go through life where your livelihood is cooking and not be able to enjoy the flavors?

I’ve lost all desire to cook this week; aside from feeling under the weather, I can’t taste what I’m eating, so for me all the pleasure of food is lost. I’m feeling better each day and I’m sure my ailment will be gone in the morning. But I had to wonder, what if that sense was gone forever? I always said if I had to lose a sense it would be my hearing. But what, as a cook, I could no longer have a sense for flavors?

I have Achatz’s memoir on my list of books to read, and I’ll be curious how, or if, he solves this problem in his own life. It’s an interesting situation I’ve never thought about. I’ve considered how I’d get along if I lost my sight or hearing. But taste? That’s a hard one. So, in the meantime, it’s a sunny side up egg and rye toast for dinner.