Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Foodie Reborn: The New Normal and Loving It!

Woman with eyes closed, breathing...

Yesterday on Facebook, I wrote the following:
Eating a bowl of chili for lunch. Man, it looks good! You know, losing most of my sense of taste and smell makes me appreciate so much in life. I take so much more time now to savor and experience food. I close my eyes and try to catch the slightest aroma. I chew slower and relish textures, putting the faintest tastes down to new memories. I have a new found appreciation for everything I put in my mouth.
It was a profound moment. One that at once acknowledged the changes in my life, and yet, pointed toward the future of how life is so much more interesting and precious.

Often throughout the last two months, I hesitated to write in this blog. I felt that I couldn't do anyone's restaurant or food creation justice, because of the changes I'd been through. I knew in my head that I needed to go on (see the last two entries here and there), but I just couldn't seem to convince my heart that anyone wanted to see me stumble through trying to describe things I could barely taste. I couldn't reconcile it until yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday, I sat down to a bowl of my quick chili, made from a recipe I've worked on for many years. This last creation contained three types of meat; ground turkey, ground beef (20/80) and a good portion of a leftover slow-cooker roast. After two days, I knew it would be perfectly blended and as I reheated a bowl, I performed the ritual that lately has become my norm. I lifted the bowl to my nose, closed my eyes, and breathed in; first the right side and then the left. With eyes closed, I concentrated on scent alone, and I inhaled through each side independently.

I know I can smell from the right side. It is the left side that is blunted and weak. Still, I inhaled, only now with purpose. I know I am training my mind to pick up on whatever it can catch. I am like a visually-impaired person, first learning to use a white cane; relying on other senses and even an inner sense to guide me.

Only after doing this for a couple of seconds, do I begin to taste the food. Again, one side is stronger than the other. I start with the strong side but quickly include the weaker side so that the participation is complete. Closing my eyes once again, I savored the taste of the rice against the longer grain of the roast. The smooth, silky slip of French Onion Dip - a last minute sub for sour cream (which turned out to be a hit!) - descends into and in between the spicy beans and granules of ground meats. As I chew, the mixture blends together, breaks apart into different sensations and melds back again.

It is glorious!

In the past, being a foodie was something I took for granted. I had a wonderful sense of smell, inherited from my mother (she was the type to smell the gas from the stove before you opened the door!) and I enjoyed everything new and different. Where friends hesitated, I dove right into different cuisines, dishes and ethnic treats. From my teen years on, sampling the new and revisiting the tried and true was a mainstay of my life, regardless of where I lived or jobs I held. Now, with my senses dulled, I'm forced to appreciate every....single...thing, every...single...bite. Things as simply as tomato soup or a cheddar multi-grain chip or liverwurst on swirl rye and pump; nothing is taken for granted.

Pile of multi-grain chips. Savory bits of cheddar crunch!

No longer do I rush any meal. No longer am I bored at repeats of any food. If it has spent a day or two blending flavors, I stop to notice it. I close my eyes and breathe in deeply at every plate and glass before even taking a bite or a sip.

The old adage is true. What was meant to destroy me has made me stronger. An illness I thought would destroy my desire for food and its aftermath is the driving force for how I enjoy food more and more.

In about two days, I will join the local advocacy group W.E.A.N. - Charlotte for a holiday get-together at disability-friendly Cheddars restaurant in the University area of Charlotte. It will be the first restaurant/food spot review since October. I can't wait! I intend to savor every dish...and maybe even those of my dining mates! I am a foodie reborn!

Stay tuned...

Readers Turn to Share: 
What has made you stronger though you were convinced at first it wouldn't?  How has it changed your  relationship to ordinary things in life or social interactions?

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