Recently, I was banned from a COVID survivor Facebook group. You may be wondering, how is that possible? And I thought the same thing. I am in fact a COVID survivor. So what was the problem?
It seems as though the moderators of such groups do not approve of posts asking members what they would eat when they had no sense of taste or smell. To me, it seems like a valid inquiry, especially since I was one of the people who lost both those senses while infected and had some pretty specific food preferences throughout that time.
Losing my senses was odd, to say the least. It took a day or two to go from thinking I was smelling something unfamiliar to realizing that the lack of familiarity came from there being no smell at all. My friends said, “Smell is overrated.” I strongly disagree– you just don’t appreciate it until it’s gone. And since taste is 80 percent smell, the loss of both senses caused a huge change in my eating habits. All you can really taste when you can’t really taste are the five basic flavors: sweet, salty, spicy, bitter, and umami.
But one thing I learned during the five days that I had no sense of smell is that flavor isn’t the only thing you eat for. You’re eating for comfort, for texture, and, at the very base of it, for avoidance of malnutrition. So here it is, the guide you never knew you needed: the top hits and misses of foods to eat when you don’t have a sense of taste or smell, based on my experience. I hope you never have to use it.
Half of my meals when I was lacking senses consisted of pho. The warmth gave me comfort and on top of it just being a soup (prime for sick days), it’s super salty. Moreover, it’s traditionally served with hoisin sauce (sweet) and sriracha (spicy). That’s three out of the five flavors you got left.
Chips and Salsa
This one might seem kind of random. But it’s salty and it’s spicy– it’s a hit! And salsa, much like pho, has a watery texture that doesn’t require too much effort to eat.
When you have COVID, or any illness really, everyone is always telling you to eat things that will boost your immune system. To me, that means keep buying $16 Sweetgreen salads even though you can’t taste any of it except for the dressing. Balsamic vinaigrette packs a bitter punch that you literally can’t get from anything else because you don’t have a sense of taste.
Vitamin C is important for your immune system, and orange juice is sour and smooth enough to be (almost) enjoyable when you can’t taste it.
When you can’t taste anything, biting into a cookie kind of tastes like biting into a sugar cube. It absolutely did not make me feel comforted, leading to cookies being classified as a miss.
Don’t get me wrong — I love a good bagel. In fact, they are my breakfast food of choice. But none of the basic flavors are in there, leaving you to judge the food solely based on texture. And it just feels like you’re eating wet Play-Doh. 0/10, would not recommend.
Have you ever really stopped to think about the texture of cheese? When you can’t taste or smell it, the meal is just a stringy mess. Still better than the bagel, though.