Managing the Impossible; A Meal with Friends
Ok so it is not easy to get too excited about food and cooking when you are anosmic especially if becoming anosmic is relatively new for you, but creating a special evening or lunch date for friends or family can help make it more enjoyable for you too. The extra challenge is usually that whilst you are anosmic they are not.
When I first became anosmic I was very dubious about cooking anything even for my immediate family. How could I know if I’d got the seasoning right was one of my biggest worries. It was only later that I began to worry about the freshness of the ingredients because I hadn’t realised milk had gone off until someone else pointed it out to me. I tended to stick to recipes I had always cooked even if I could no longer enjoy them myself, because I knew from experience how to cook and season them.
I know the phrase ‘we eat with our eyes’ is popular and I am sure that is one of the reasons I began to add more colourful ingredients to my own cooking because it does make meals look more appealing and not only to me. Still at the back of my mind was the question, but what if it tastes disgusting, how would I know? The food might taste alright to me with my limited sense of taste and flavour (due to no sense of smell) but without trying it on a non anosmic how would I know? I wouldn’t.
I had a friend who had become anosmic long before Covid and long before I also lost my sense of taste and smell. Just as I have found ingredients that I add to meals to make them taste good to me she had garlic. I now understand that for her cooking with garlic always added something to make the meal enjoyable to her but the amount she used took my breath away until I got used to it.
One of my ‘go to’ ingredients is the North African spice Harissa. I know I must be careful with the amount I add as it is a spice where the heat and intensity of the flavour gradually grows. I also like to use Sumac as a kind of marinade. It adds a lemony hint and citrus fruits remain one of the foods I’m lucky to still get some taste from. For my friend it was just lots and lots of fresh garlic.
All her friends used to tease her about her garlic obsession but we all knew she had no sense of smell and a very limited sense of taste because she was very open about explaining when and how she lost these senses in her late teens. She never called herself anosmic though, but I’m not surprised as when I lost these senses even my GP wasn’t fully aware of exactly what anosmia was.
Here is one of her best ideas that I am happy to share with you. When inviting her friends round for dinner she would always ask them to bring something. One of us would bring starters, one dessert etc or if there were lots of us 2 starters, 2 desserts etc. She would always cook the main course so you knew there would be lots of garlic on the menu!
I now understand why she did this because it meant everyone would have a favourite taste, flavour, aroma etc to enjoy from at least one course of our meal. What a clever way around having a limited sense of taste and smell yourself. I do this now with friends and family and I find they like to challenge me with their choices sometimes. They all know to avoid ginger as I am allergic to it and since becoming anosmic I can no longer easily detect it in food. If you have a food allergy and are going to try this fun way of making a meal with friends or family special please make sure they are aware any allergy you have. A regular question they like to ask me is what I ‘get’ from something they have brought to share and my descriptions have ended up with all of us howling with laughter. Such fun from food, who would have thought that possible ? I have not always been able to finish their more challenging courses they like to test me with but no one is offended if I don’t. I love that they have taken to adding more texture or colour to their choices as they all know that makes a meal more appealing to me.
Enjoying food with people is possible and I believe the key to this is to be open with friends and family, even colleagues at work and explain your anosmia. The more people who know and have some understanding of what anosmia is the better it will be for all of us in our day to day lives. Go on fellow anosmics give it a go!