Is there a doctor in the house?! Or maybe someone else expert in physiology? Or maybe someone who has experienced something similar to what I am going through right now?
Because a funny thing happened to me two weeks ago; I lost my taste. Now before you start in with the jokes about my obviously pre-existing lack of taste, let me jump in and tell you that I seem to have primarily lost my ability to taste natural sugar. Which really sucks because it changes the flavor profile of just about everything with the exception of things like brussel sprouts, dandelion and chicory. (By the way, did you know that cats, from little kitties to big lions, can’t taste sweet either? Perhaps I should give Fancy Feast a try. Or a Thompson gazelle? )
And before anyone else suggests that I should have my nose checked out, I can smell just fine, thank you. (Please, no jokes!) In fact, foods that are mostly tasted through the nose (like very dry Italian wines, coffee, kimche and boiled eggs) are even tolerable (if not quite palatable) to me. Umami is good, when it’s not linked to sweetness (such as with pine nuts, blue cheese and Parmesan) but we are not presented with many choices there.
Almost all beer is impossible (lots of maltose) although a recent triple hop IPA was marginally drinkable, but still not much more flavorful than your standard Budweiser. Even my beloved bone-in rib-eye (cowboy) steak tastes like cardboard soaked in Crisco. Celery still tastes like…celery. I feel like crying.
I have not been hit on the head, struck ill, had recent surgery or received radiation or chemo-therapy. I am not vitamin B-12 or zinc deficient. I have not burned or cut my tongue. I DID smoke the occasional cigar but have not done so since this has happened. OK maybe a little more than occasionally, but not more than a couple of times a week and I have friends that have been two-packers-a-day for thirty years and they don’t have this problem.
What’s weird is that I CAN taste some artificial sweeteners like saccharine and Xylitol. But not Splenda, Equal or Nutrasweet. Haven’t checked Stevia out yet.
It has been an enlightening (if rather unappetizing ) experience. After having spent my entire life preparing and serving food I now understand the physiology of taste in a way that absolutely no cook (or text) book ever could convey it. I don’t believe this will effect my career adversely – I remember recipes and can still read them, I just need a taster by my side (anyone seen “Tortilla Soup”?) It may even be possible for me to explore new avenues in cooking. Right now some of our cutting edge chefs are introducing bitter tasting foods on their menus, something that other culinary cultures are much more familiar with. Perhaps for me, bitter is better.
There is a silver lining to this gustatory cloud; my appetite is so diminished that I’ve lost about ten pounds. This is the world’s most effective weight loss program. I’m pretty much convinced that the biggest enticement to overeating is that food just tastes so damn good. (There is even an Indian herb and a pill made from it that claims to deaden your sense of taste and has allegedly helped people lose weight.) It’s convenient for me, I guess,that the foods that taste the worst right now are those containing the most sugars and simple carbs, the biggest contributors to weight gain (through insulin resistance). So maybe I really don’t want this problem fixed….Nah! Good food is one of God’s greatest gifts, much more so than sex, fame, money or skinny-ness – believe me!
So, what the hell happened? I know some of you folks have some understanding of the science behind food and eating. If anyone has any ideas or any suggestions….HELP!