I’m about a week into dealing with a cold, and this one was particularly nasty not because of the myriad of symptoms one might typically endure, but because it completely zapped me of my energy. Yesterday and today, though, I’ve been feeling like myself again, except for one thing — I just can’t seem to shake my congestion.
Last night, Joe and I cooked dinner together for the first time in ages. The kitchen is one of those things that, historically, I’ve been a little territorial over (I know, GASP, right?), and as such he tends to sit his heiney on the couch and wait for dinner to be served (the other reason being that beyond omelets, his culinary prowess is fairly limited). But oh, does the man know how to cook salmon.
Two weekends ago, we’d purchased some filets of Loch Duart salmon and frozen a few to eat over the following weeks. Yesterday we decided to grill some up — simply, with salt, pepper, lemon and herbs — and serve it with some haricot vert that I was in charge of sauteeing.
It hadn’t even occured to me as we were cooking that I couldn’t really smell anything. I went about my business, slicing lemon, chopping parsley and thyme, sauteeing the beans in olive oil. Joe was concentrating intensely on the fish’s cross-hatched grill marks, and once he had plated it up, I was proud of what a lovely, simple dinner we’d put together (yay, teamwork!). We busted open a bottle of pinot meunier, and sat down to enjoy.
I tenderly broke off a piece of the fish, and delicately began to chew. Nothing. I couldn’t taste anything. The texture of the fish was creamy at least, but even with the seasoning and a final squirt of lemon juice, I could barely taste the flesh. Same was true of the beans.
And I got really, really sad.
So it should be unsurprising when I tell you that one of the things I hate most about being sick is losing my sense of taste. I’ll take aches, pains, a runny nose, headache, coughs, fever — just as long as I can taste. As an adult, whenever I’m sick and lose my sense of taste, I’m always reminded of one sad night as a little girl, recovering from a cold and completely stopped up.
My mother had prepared pork chops with her “famous” Campbell’s mushroom sauce. The premise of this dish was pretty straightforward. You take a microwave safe ceramic baking dish. You arrange several shoulder blade pork chops in said dish. Open a can or two of Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom soup. Spoon gloppy “soup” over pork chops. If you’re feeling culinarily adventurous, season with pepper. Cover chops and gloppy “soup” with wax paper. Microwave until pork is cooked through. Serve with buttered egg noodles. Dinner gold!
Okay, okay, so I loved that freakin’ dinner as a kid. We probably ate it at least twice a month. On the night of my aforementioned cold congestion, I kept a box of Kleenex right next to me at the table, and in between forkfuls, was blowing my nose as hard as I could, begging my olfactory nerves to pick up a molecule or two of the food aromas, so that I could TASTE. And it just wasn’t working. As I furiously chewed my tough pork and mixed the noodles up with the sauce, tasting nothing, I got really, really upset. And halfway through the meal, the ground around my chair littered with dirty tissues, I started crying.
“What’s wrong, honey?” my mom asked, reaching her hand over to touch my shoulder, “Do you not feel good?”
“NO!” I wailed, now using a dirty Kleenex to mop up my tears, “I JUST WANT TO BE ABLE TO TAAAAAAAASTE!” and I dropped my fork down and lay my head on the table and cried.
My mom had been trying to wean me off nasal decongestant spray, as it can be quite habit forming and actually cause congestion to worsen. But that night, she let me have a few more drops of Neo-Synephrine in each nostril, and I returned to my noodles and mushroom sauce, happy once more.