I’m reading Diane Ackerman’s “The Zookeeper’s Wife”, a story based on the actions of Antonina and Jan Zabin’ski who managed to save over 300 otherwise doomed people during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. Reading Diane Ackerman always heightens my senses – she writes like I think, with little bits and pieces of pertinent (and some maybe not-so pertinent) information flying around the core nugget of information ….anyway, I like her writing a lot (trying to stay on track here, darlings, hangin’ by a thread…). One of the terrifying things written about in The Zookeeper’s Wife is how quickly we adapt to whatever ‘reality’ confronts us. One minute one is worrying about which dress to wear to a concert and the next, one is grateful to be sleeping on a mattress wedged in a doorframe, possibly allowing you to shelter your small child from shrapnel. I, and a lot of others, call these adjustments New Normals.
So why am I yarking on about this? Well, my New Normal isn’t anywhere near as dread and dire as it was for the citizenry of 1941 Warsaw but it’s my current New Normal. I have lost a good 60% of my sense of taste and about 40% of my already-iffy sense of smell.
It’s bizarre, watching myself adjust to this. I’m not really worried about it, as I think it’s a combination of an ongoing respiratory situation (involving all aspects of respiration, including a stubborn spot of pneumonia (my 14th occurrence, still some gurgling in the lungs) and 4 years of unrelenting stress, which has settled in my neck and shoulders. The resulting ‘blockage combo’ has short circuited a lot of smell/taste receptors. Weird disconnects: I can taste some HFC but not sugar; El O just heated up some roast chicken, which I could smell from 3 rooms away and I drifted towards it, salivating, like one of Pavlov’s pups, only to find it nearly tasteless in my mouth. Dang. Not surprising, the inability to taste certain things has dissuaded me from eating a whole lot of stuff (salty is okay, sweet is iffy, spicy is altered, much to the terror of my household as they taste a curry that seems ‘mild’ to me yet, apparently, could fuel the Hubble to another planet)…but…well ….obviously I haven’t completely stopped eating , since I’m still a solid size 12 and able to type this post without keeling over in a dead faint. But the lack of taste and smell has created a New Normal for me, while I try to get this fixed.
What Doesn’t Work: The Food Chronicles:
Dough. At this rate I should be a size 8 by March 22nd. I can’t taste any bread or pasta. Weird. The hottest curries or sauces are muted by the bland dough. Rice? Fuggedaboutit. I can taste toasted tortillas but that’s not really true – I can taste the little crispy bits but not the sweetness of the corn.
Sweet: see above. No point in eating brownies or cake. They taste like flour. My last waffle was this morning. What a waste of good maple syrup (which I also can’t taste)
Salty: salty is good – but only for a few minutes. Then, like the ionones in violets (which we’ve discussed here before) the salt vanishes..then reappears (maybe)….then vanishes.. I gave up on potato chips – it’s not worth the calories.
Salty/fatty: this is a weird one. Salted almonds: can taste them in the back left quadrant of my tongue but only fleetingly. The rest of my tongue is a wasteland. This gets boring, quickly, as you can imagine. I’m using them for the protein and fibre.
So the New Normal for me consists of orange juice, which I can taste, toast with peanut butter and Thai Green Curry (not together!). And peppermint tea.
Has this happened to any of you? How did you cope? Did you lose weight? If I’m going to be tortured like this, I would at least like to re-fit into those slammo black suede pants.
Perfume choices have had to change as well. I’m limited to extremes. Carnal Flower is UP! as is Amouage Epic. Chanel Coco, No5 perfume and vintage My Sin make their presence known. 1/20th of what I normally get in vintage Ubar . Other than that, I’m mostly confused. All the Diors are null - Diorella languishes in the back of the drawer as I can only smell something vaguely pond-y that I never smelled before. Are you all sitting down? Good. I CAN’T SMELL MITSOUKO! I KNOW!!! Alert the media! Just joshin’. I mean, I can smell it – but it’s a pale reflection of its normal glorious self, with all sorts of notes awol.
So I’m looking to you guys for some guidance – I’ve given you the basics of my smell limitations. What would you suggest for my New Normal, as I try to adjust to these limitations? I am open to any notes. Bring ‘em! With any luck this will dissipate but in the meantime I am going to have to change what I sniff, lest you get a few weeks worth of book reviews or stories about my dogs. So, a little help here? Thanks!
image: Gerhard Richter “Mirror Painting (Grey, 735-2) tate.org.uk – this is how my olfactory world feels right now.
The ionones reference comes from Diane Ackerman’s vaunted A Natural History of the Senses which was my introduction to her work.