A year ago, give or take a couple of days, I lost my sense of smell. This means that I can’t smell anything and can only taste bitter, sweet, salt and sour. Or to put it another way, it means I can happily eat half a bowl of cereal before noticing that the milk has lumps in it.*
A few appointments and an MRI scan** later, the ENT consultant said she didn’t know what had caused it and that there was nothing she could do beyond advising me to check my smoke alarm regularly. I cried. It was awkward.
Recently I’ve been trying to view anosmia (the medical term for loss of olfaction) as my superpower. For example, when I walk into a bar with friends and they start complaining that it smells like vomit, I remain as happy as Larry. Yeah, it’s a rubbish superpower, but there are worse. There’s also a money saving element to the condition. I’ve always been quite a thrifty shopper (my ex called me The Miser) but I now buy Sainsbury’s basics EVERYTHING. When I did Live Below the Line last year the 27p baked beans almost broke me. These days I rather enjoy them.
Cooking for other people can be a bit more of a challenge. The instruction ‘season to taste’ feels like a bit of a kick in the face and I’m paranoid about serving food that has gone off. My tactic is to stick to tried and tested recipes and to take use by dates very seriously. However, if you’re ever eating something I’ve cooked, please don’t be afraid to pipe up if it tastes odd – for both our sakes.
I’d really like it if anosmia helped me to eat healthily. While it’s true that I don’t really like chocolate anymore, I eat more sweet food than ever because ‘sweet’ is my favourite of the four flavours available to me. If it looks like cake and tastes like sugar, I’m in.
I was very reluctant to tell people about all this to begin with but over the past year my loss of smell has gone from being a secret entrusted to just a couple friends to something that I can joke about. Mostly. There’s no getting around the fact that it totally sucks but, fingers crossed, I might catch a whiff of coffee, fresh cut grass, or even vomit, any day now.
* I really wish I could say I stopped eating my cereal when I realised that the milk was off. Low point.
** Top tip: When they ask you which radio station you want to listen to while you’re in an MRI machine, do not say Radio 4. The machine is so loud that John Humphreys and Sarah Montague really can’t compete – some background music would be far more appropriate.