Gaps and reversion to the familiar
It’s a curious thing to lose part of your sense of taste. You’d think it would be a simple on/off switch, right? Either you can taste food or you can’t. That seems to be one of the symptoms of COVID-19, as an example: the loss of the ability to taste food.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been unable to properly taste salty or savory foods. It’s not a result of catching COVID-19 (so far I still seem to be evading that family of viruses). Instead it appears to be the result of an infection which I’ve recently shaken off. It feels like my sense of taste is getting back to normal but for a week or so food was less fun:
a lot of meat products just tasted awful, like chewing cardboard
other foods that combined spiciness with a bit of saltiness just managed to taste like black pepper.
I could still taste sweetness and so drinking cranberry juice and lemonade became particularly delightful. But I still felt this big gap in my ability to enjoy food and a person can’t live solely on citrus juice. As a result, I’ve been thinking a lot about taste in its various manifestations during the past few weeks.
There’s the taste of food but there’s also taste in fashion and culture, as an example. When we’re not feeling well or our body is off kilter somehow I think that many of us go through something I think of as reversion to the familiar. We crave those things that have given us comfort and pleasure in the past, regardless of their quality, because they will deliver sensations that we expect.
A favorite drink or chicken soup recipe could provide a sense of pleasure when things are out of balance. Or it could be a beloved TV show, movie, book or video game from your youth that soothes you, regardless of its quality. Or maybe you just need to collapse on your couch in comfortable pajamas and watch the dust motes collect on them while ambient noise and images wash over you like a gentle tide rolling in. Eventually you’ll get bored of simplistic entertainment and start to crave stories with more depth and complexity.
Taste is an important guide to knowing what’s healthy and what’s not. Sometimes taste gets suspended temporarily due to things out of your control. And you know what? That’s OK. It’s normal for tastes to shift temporarily, even when you do feel well.
So how about this: maybe we just need to accept that there are times when our tastes change temporarily and we just need to roll with it. Temporary reversion to the familiar isn’t a horrible thing, as long as we recognize that many, many things in life are temporary and equilibrium normally returns.
I’m not saying that you should stuff your face full of ice cream and potato chips and watch pointless reality television when you’re not feeling well.
But, I’m not saying you shouldn’t, either.
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