I have lost my sense of taste. I realized it while eating my dinner the other night. Subtle notes of fresh halibut floated away off the plate. Forget the delicate florals of the herbes de Provence in the ratatouille. Even the intense punch of the sun-dried tomato was reduced to an acrid afterthought, the lemony zing of the capers faded, the heat of fresh ground black pepper nothing more than grit.
I’ve gone from eating in colour to black-and-white.
It’s not a permanent loss, it’s a side effect of a medication I’m on (temporarily, I hope) but it’s disconcerting nonetheless. I’ve always veered more to the side of “live to eat” not “eat to live”, a love-hate relationship with food that I’ve accepted over the years and turned into a career. A loss, even temporary, of something so dear is something that has to be dealt with.
Mining the rich humour vein of my homeland is my usual coping mechanism. Instilled by generations of hardscrabble livelihoods, geographic isolation and the need to entertain ourselves, Newfoundlanders generally are a funny lot and never more so than at funerals. (Listen, the old sketch show CODCO didn’t have a “Wake of the Week” segment for nothing).
When my mother passed away after battling cancer, we had a visitation at the funeral home, as families do. My father, siblings and I sat with her for a while first, and then two of her sisters arrived. They rushed up to the casket, crying and wailing, quelling their anguished sobs long enough to say, as people are wont to do at funerals, “Oh, she looks wonderful, they did some job on her!”
My father, a quiet man internalizing his grief, instantly muttered wryly “She looked better yesterday when she was alive”.
When the funeral director came to let me know it was time to take her for cremation, he stopped and stared at her name on the reception room door, as if noticing it for the first time. “That’s not Betty from up the shore is it?” he asked me, in hushed tones. “The one who reads the cards?” Yes, that’s the one (Mom had made a name for herself as a card reader, just ordinary playing cards, with quite a cult following). On he went . “She read my cards, my dear, she was some good!”
“She wasn’t that good” I blurted, “she didn’t see this coming!”
And so it went. Humour is a great coping mechanism, both shield and sword.
I’m hoping my taste buds will blossom again soon, because it seems cruel that someone who loves comfort food can be denied the pleasure of eating it when comfort is most needed.
In the meantime, I can think of a few friends that should use this time of diminished taste to invite me to supper…