[Disclaimer: this is not a medical science platform and we are not doctors!]
We are among the many people who experienced covid-19 and the loss of taste and smell.
However, as we are Aftertaste Blog, you can imagine that this event was particularly terrible for us as food is not a need, but a reason for living.
Even if risks have become part of our daily routines more than ever this year, no one ever really thinks that something like this, the loss of taste, will happen to them.
What has happened to the mayo?
I’m a huge fan of mayonnaise, even though I know it’s not really healthy, and I frequently enjoy a slice of sourdough bread with a thick layer of mayo on top.
It’s my entree – or my dessert – according to the size of the meal. Sometimes I even do it twice (no, covid didn’t kill me, but cholesterol eventually will!). That was the case in early January 2021, my twice daily mayonnaise treat.
However, one day, the mayonnaise I had for lunch was not the same that I had for dinner. It felt rotten; it seemed like I had forgotten to put it back in the fridge after using it. The tartness of that bite felt stronger in my nose than in my mouth, and I couldn’t go on eating it. Here is when I started feeling the loss of taste and smell, the very first symptoms of covid-19, what seemed to be just a cold at first.
Covid-19 gives you a fake cold
A cold, indeed, this is the example I need to explain to you how I felt with no sense of smell or taste. You know how when you get a very bad cold, your nose clogs, and flavors are basically impossible to distinguish, right?
Well, what you experience with covid-19 is not exactly the same. Sensory features don’t pass through the barrier that the virus establishes between you and the world around you. My senses were simply anesthetized. I was able to feel only sourness among the five perception areas presumably located on our tongue. Salty, sweet, bitter and umami were missing.
After the first two weeks, on my way to recovery, I was able to finally start perceiving “sweet”. I began to wonder and ask myself if this (the lack of smell and taste) deals with physics, chemistry, or psychology. It became quite complicated not to recall some flavors and scents to mind when looking at certain foods or drinks – even if I knew I wasn’t able to feel them at that precise moment. I was only remembering the smells, the tastes.
(Funny?) experiments with taste and smell
During those days I wasn’t hungry at all.
I began trying to be my own scientist, too curious not to test myself to check my reactions.
I started slowly by preparing my favorite herbal tea, which is normally rich in flavor and smell. It was like drinking a cup of unsalted water that I was about to boil my pasta in. There was no distinguishable flavor.
Next, I tried coffee. It was the same, with no distinguishable flavor. However, unlike herbal tea, coffee has its own color and consistency and my eyes could see its delicious slightly bitter foam. Therefore I was able to trick my brain with my sense of sight.
Last but not least, I tried whisky. I poured a sip of the strongest, most peaty brand of whisky that I had, the one that smells like a pipe – or an ashtray! And… I felt… nothing. I could only detect its high alcohol content. I was basically ready to get drunk without noticing it, and my affliction was taking me in that direction anyway!
Another substantial difference with an average cold is the taste of your mouth itself.
When you are sick, your mouth is usually bitter, dry, and drowsy like your voice. Well, anosmia – the technical term for the loss of smell and taste in covid-19 patients, doesn’t let you feel that either. This feeling together with the loss of appetite, makes you lose the chance to define something as “mouthwatering”. Whatever you eat it just won’t be satisfying.
Covid-19 took my aftertaste away
Nevertheless, I didn’t give up hope that one day I would wake up with my sense of taste and smell.
I will never forget the ‘nth morning of quarantine when I woke up to prepare a pile of pancakes. It was like eating a big wet sponge… until I added maple syrup… and “sweet” was back! It was right after Christmas, so we had lots of Pandoro leftovers around the apartment, and that gave me a tiny sparkle of joy and hope. Hope because, of course, you start questioning the fact that you will regain your sense of smell and taste completely.
During those 3 weeks, covid-19 had taken my aftertaste away, the core of this blog project.
I missed it like one misses things or people that are lost suddenly, without knowing it’s about to happen. Now that I’m fully recovered, I promised myself that I would celebrate this blessing of taste every single day of my life.