But the food, it occurred to me, wasn’t what I was after at all
October 29, 2020 6:02 AM   Subscribe

"When my wife and I had COVID-19, we lost our sense of smell and taste for a bit. It was, as my wife put it, 'a joyless existence.' Now I had my taste back, but somehow the joy of eating was still gone."
posted by Ouverture (21 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
A viral infection temporarily took my sense of smell and taste in 2004. Life is pretty sad when your meal choices are cold clay or hot clay, gritty clay or smooth clay. It didn't come back all at once. Salty came back first. It wasn't much better when everything was only salty.
posted by 1adam12 at 6:18 AM on October 29 [19 favorites]


That was a good essay. Thanks.
posted by Orlop at 7:02 AM on October 29 [2 favorites]


Food is about the cultural expression of ideals. It is a celebration of those you are with. It is a remembrance of times shared by lost loved ones. It is a triumph of your achievements. It is the last taste of humanity and a reminder of what makes something home.

It is sweet, salty, sour... but there's also texture... smooth and crunchy and chunky and I hope I never just get left with... texture...

You don't go out to eat just because... that's the way to boredom and melancholy meals. When a place fails to resonate - to drive that connection, you more on... And that emotional connection is the food, the room, the atmosphere, and ... yes even the people you come with. Knock one of those things out and a place may never be the same, the food may taste different, and the ... magic may be gone from the meal.

But, remember - even if the taste is gone - there are still many wonderful things at the table you find yourself at.
Remember and enjoy the family, friends and those around you. Savor more than just the food.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:14 AM on October 29 [1 favorite]


Still reading, but this is great so far. Also, this line:

> I hope that I never find out what Waffle House tastes like while sober, eaten in broad daylight.

That's... that's just what 2020 has been, writ large, right? All the cracks and seams and stains and flaws thrown into sharp contrast by the harsh illumination of myriad widespread slow-motion disasters?
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 8:16 AM on October 29 [11 favorites]


This is a lovely, bittersweet essay, and it nicely articulates what I really love about travel, but as someone who works with the public I took this part as a threat:

It reminds me of my mother, actually. I remember when I was a kid, she would pick up the phone to call a restaurant, or Blockbuster Video, to ask them a question. I would always hear her say something like: “Hi Randy! How are you today?” and I would say, “Mom! Do you know him?” and she would shake her head no. Then she would say, “Oh that’s great to hear, Randy. Hey listen, what time do you close today?” My brother and I used to make fun of her for that — for forcing this connection with someone she had no real relationship with beyond an exchange of services. Now, I plan to do exactly that, whenever and wherever I can.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:38 AM on October 29 [7 favorites]


I hope that I never find out what Waffle House tastes like while sober, eaten in broad daylight.

Why ever not? Waffle House is our traditional road-trip first-day breakfast. It's delicious ffs. They're all over the place around here for a reason.
posted by jquinby at 8:51 AM on October 29 [7 favorites]


The Card Cheat,

I didn't read it as a threat, more as an attempt to force the human connection through the dense steel wool of the new pandemic-normal. Maybe it'll fail most of the time, it might even annoy some people (hopefully this person is self-aware enough to notice and back off), but it might also help thaw some of the isolation ice that has been slowly enveloping all of us.

So, how are you today? I'm not bad, I woke up earlier than I wanted with some formless health anxiety but my day still got going at a more-or-less normal pace.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 8:52 AM on October 29 [6 favorites]


I love this so, so much.

I usually cook, but I hated cooking this summer. I only ate take out or frozen burritos, for the most part. I feel like this essay helps me understand why, in part.

Also, jquinby--I agree. My best meals and memories at Waffle House are during sober, daylight hours! As the author said it's all about context, and I guess ours is just a bit different.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 8:58 AM on October 29 [1 favorite]


> I didn't read it as a threat, more as an attempt to force the human connection through the dense steel wool of the new pandemic-normal.

I was joking, mostly, but pandemic or not I am not wired to enjoy chitchat with strangers in a work environment from either side of the worker/customer divide.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:26 AM on October 29 [8 favorites]


> I am not wired to enjoy chitchat with strangers in a work environment from either side of the worker/customer divide.

Oh, absolutely. Small-talk carries a disproportionate cognitive load for me and I generally can't stand it. But it's also an entry point and social lubricant for a lot of folks, I think.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 9:32 AM on October 29 [2 favorites]


I would think that people treating workers like objects and slaves is a far worse social problem to worry about than clumsy attempts to be friendly and recognize that they are people.
posted by straight at 10:05 AM on October 29 [4 favorites]


Using someone's first name in a situation where they're required to wear a name tag or introduce themselves but they don't know your name has some I-would-like-to-speak-to-your-manager energy, even if it's meant in all kindness.
posted by echo target at 10:08 AM on October 29 [23 favorites]


Perhaps one could split the difference and not ask service workers about their day, but do take the time to wish them a good day? Eg. "Hi Randy, I'm [Author's Mom]. I hope you are doing well! I have a quick question; what time do you close today? 9:00? Okay, thanks so much, and have a good evening!"
posted by eviemath at 10:12 AM on October 29 [9 favorites]


It didn't come back all at once. Salty came back first. It wasn't much better when everything was only salty.

I had a strange day during pregnancy where the only thing I could taste was saltiness, it was so disconcerting. I remember taking a bite of a brownie and gagging on it. Everything was back to normal the next day. Couldn't imagine dealing with taste issues for for a long time (or forever?).
posted by JenMarie at 10:32 AM on October 29


For some people, everything an older woman does has "I-would-like-to-speak-to-your-manager energy".
posted by betweenthebars at 10:52 AM on October 29 [12 favorites]


When I was in retail, the giving of my name was an unspoken sign of submission; "Here is my collar and leash, how may I help you?" knowing that if you screwed up or were plain unlucky, you could be dragged up by the manager by the customer invoking your name. When a customer immediately starts using my name back at me, without telling me their name, it's like they are YANKING on my leash, showing me that yes, I am their bitch.
posted by The otter lady at 11:50 AM on October 29 [16 favorites]


Yeah, there's nothing quite like the feeling of "They have my name, I am SCREWED because they will now scream about me to everyone they can find!"

Ditto "name on my shirt" jobs.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:52 PM on October 29 [1 favorite]


When I was in retail, customers didn't need a name to complain. It was all "the girl". "The girl got my order wrong." "The girl wouldn't give me a refund." "Your girl is too slow. Doesn't she see everyone is waiting?" Honestly, I never put that much thought into customer interactions because I would turn on auto-response the minute I clocked in.

I think that behaviour that inadvertently or deliberately emphasises the power dynamics in a customer/employee relationship or that is too familiar can be described or criticised without resorting to ageist and sexist memes.

Anyway, I thought the ending to the article was interesting because my mother would always chat with everyone in the store (bank, post office, etc.) and it annoyed me when I was growing up, but now I just see it as her quirk and accept it. Part of this did have to do with my experience in retail. Some of my co-workers were extroverts and loved talking to customers. That was definitely not my personality, but I would turn on auto-response, and despite my dislike of small talk, chatty customers were the same to me as the quiet ones.

Even though I don't think I'll ever be a small talk fan, I think the author is not the only one feeling corona-chatty. I've been trying to shop locally, and in stores where pre-March I could slip in and out quietly, the owners or people who work there are now following me around telling me all about the organic, upstate, grass-fed, hand-crafted whatever and sometimes wildly oversharing about their relationship troubles.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:58 PM on October 29 [2 favorites]


I lost my sense of smell and taste from 2013-2015. Weekly therapy helped me and it returned after almost two years to the day. There was I believe a psychological component. My dreams indicated it. It was such a relief, as we love to cook, eat and drink wine. Last December a sharp pain in my ear canal ushered in another loss of smell and taste. It was devastating, especially since my only hope is smell training with essential oils (40-50% recovery rate). I am on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds. If any knows of online support groups I would sincerely appreciate it. Thank you.
posted by DJZouke at 6:23 AM on October 30


Using someone's first name in a situation where they're required to wear a name tag or introduce themselves but they don't know your name has some I-would-like-to-speak-to-your-manager energy, even if it's meant in all kindness.

Thanks to everyone who pointed this out. If I'm claiming I want to treat workers like people, that obviously entails wanting to know what kinds of things actually do or don't feel friendly to them.
posted by straight at 10:43 AM on October 30 [2 favorites]


I think that behaviour that inadvertently or deliberately emphasises the power dynamics in a customer/employee relationship or that is too familiar can be described or criticised without resorting to ageist and sexist memes.


For some people, everything an older woman does has "I-would-like-to-speak-to-your-manager energy".
posted by betweenthebars at 10:52 AM on October 29 [9 favorites +] [!]


I think the only one throwing around ageist and sexist memes is you.
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 12:49 PM on October 30


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