Taste & Smell: Life without them

smell-lemonsI am quite miserable at the moment:; I have completely lost my sense of taste and smell. Well, not completely but almost and I almost wish it was a complete loss. What I have left is the most horrible smell and taste of certain things, everything else tastes of nothing at all. And strangely enough I have just watched a TV programme (Horizon: The Truth about Taste, BBC2) about this very acutely important sense.

The tongue detects the senses of salty, sweet, sour and bitter, and also umami, the 5th sense (see last year blog). But it’s the brain that discerns everything else, via our sense of smell, and this is partly why it is so important; aromas trigger memory. Smells connect to the limbic system, the most primitive part of our brain connected to memory and emotion. And smells are what connects us to ourselves, and losing it is dreadful.

Like everyone who has a cold I have lost it before but as soon as the cold gets better it comes back. I had a really bad cold in November and then I fell flat on my face and smashed up my nose in December and my sense of taste and smell wasn’t great. But it was only about 2 weeks ago that I began to realise that I couldn’t taste the foods that I really loved. I ordered one of my favourite salads, tomato, buffalo mozzarella, avocado, really good olive oil and basil with lots of black pepper. The mozzarella tasted like cold sponge, the avocado of nothing and the tomato and basil like acrid burned rubber mixed with rotting something, and I can honestly say that I almost had a proper temper tantrum I was so enraged with frustration. And from then on it got worse and worse. I even left something burning in the oven because I couldn’t smell it. I make facial oils which I sell to my clients and I spend ages blending them for the smell; I have had to stop for the moment anyway.

I am now like a mad person going around sniffing things. I notice everything that may have potential; cigarette smoke, petrol, perfume and coffee make me heave as they have the really horrible smell. White wine is vile (I never thought I would say that!), red wine is better because I can detect oakiness underneath the horrible smell. Bread and my favourite Rude Health thins are revolting, even butter which I love tastes like stale margarine.

I sit and fantasise about my favourite smells;  grapefruit, cardamom, sandalwood, rose, roast chicken with thyme, sea air, real tea leaves and really good wine; cigar smoke reminds me of my dad and raspberries of my grandmother, gin and tonic and Rochas Femme perfume of my mother. Even my son’s sweaty rugby kit would be good!

I am off to get help next week; the thought of being like this is profoundly depressing, and yes I know that many things are worse.  But if you can, go round and breathe in your favourite smells and eat something slowly that you truly love the taste of,  allowing yourself to find, and properly wallow in those thoughts and memories triggered, savouring everything.. If and when mine comes back I will never take it for granted again.

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