A Matter of Taste
Food, without it you’d die. That’s not in question. When Covid 19 showed its creepy consequence and it became apparent everyone in the UK was expected to self- isolate naturally peoples first thought turned to survival, in other words: food (then toilet roll).
The cues outside supermarkets were long and I took part in panic buying food in a distracted and hurried manner as though the supermarket would self- destruct in thirty seconds: tins of chickpeas, tomatoes and coconut milk along with the obligatory treats of wine and chocolate were bought. I got my products home and unpacked safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t have to leave my house for another week and pleased that I’d had the foresight to buy Chocolate Hob Nobs. Because let’s face it: self- isolation is more bearable with biscuits.
Sweet treats, while not necessarily nutritious are there to punctuate a drab day they always have been for me, with or without a pandemic. I know I’m a comfort eater, I have been for a while however, going out and keeping busy has maintained a healthy distance between me and the allure of buttery toast even if the habit still remains. With the option of leaving the house now gone, access to biscuits has become even more important. Despite being an emotional eater I am genuinely fascinated and interested by food too. I do see it as a genuine pleasure. Just like most people.
However, I am now in the new position of wondering how to fill the hole that the pleasure of food has left. This question has become a little more pertinent as I have contracted a mild symptom of Covid 19: Anosima which is the complete departure of my sense of taste and smell. When you live a life devoid of taste in the corona lock down a massive source of pleasure, taste, is keenly missed. The fulsome flavour of wine is not available and the secondary pleasure of being drunk seems no longer worth it without the piquancy of flavour that the first delicious sip of wine provides. Coffee while giving you a caffeinated kick is just an empty high without the rich aroma to accompany it. Yes, we need food for survival and that is its primary purpose. But for me, now especially, in these profoundly joyless times, I would relish the temporary excitement of flavour on my tongue.
Yes, it is probably an addiction and in normal times I know I use food to cope with my emotions. But having no sense of taste during self- isolation just feels very, unlucky. I know I eat when I’m bored, I know I eat when I’m sad and isolation creates those two feelings in abundance. As long as I don’t let my feelings win I think my sense of taste will have to wait and I will have to view food as fuel rather than fun so that my frustration dissipates.
But despite the frustration, having no sense of taste has forced me to accept my relationship with food. It has shown my weakness for junk food for what it really is: a short, sharp shock of sugar and salt that quickly dissipates and leaves me feeling unnourished and empty. Like most addictions, it’s fun at the time but ultimately does nothing for you. This from someone who doesn’t feel much guilt about having a packet of Frazzles or a Kit Kat holds particular insight. It’s so easy when you don’t feel great about yourself to reach for something that you know is crap. I miss taste, I do and hope that it will come back but I will have new found respect for its pleasures and depths when or if it does, that go beyond the fun of Frazzles.
This is an article that first appeared in Now Then:
And then Medium: