Thursday, April 22, 2021

smelling up the place

The worst effect of my bout with the virus last year was the loss of my senses of smell and taste.

All of the other symptoms (the fever, the mild cough, the severe fatigue) disappeared within two weeks. But I still could not taste or smell. Anything.

For me, that was quite a handicap. Those two senses dominate my life. Far more than any desire. Any.

That is why I was almost ecstatic when, five months later, both senses returned home like prodigal sons. One day none of my food had any more smell or taste than flour paste. The next day gastronomic fireworks were exploding in my mouth. I was content.

I was content, but I was also confused. In their absence, my ability to taste and smell had been altered. The most obvious example was cilantro. Before the virus I had traversed a journey from loathing the detergent-taste of the herb to simply being agnostic about its use.

Now, I crave it. I put it in almost everything. It came close to being added to last night's spicy corn meal porridge (comfort food as home remedy).

I have been putting off a trip to Manzanillo for over a month. I had planned on picking up my dry cleaning before Semana Santa arrived. But I kept delaying -- primarily because I do not like the drive between Barra de Navidad and Manzanillo. This morning I set aside my reservations and headed southeast to The Big City.

A trip to Manzanillo would be wasted on picking up one hanger of dry cleaning, so I stopped at my two usual shopping spots -- La Comer and Sam's Club. La Comer for ground lamb and some frozen goods. Sam's Club for the usual paper trifecta (paper towels, toilet paper, and Kleenex), along with boneless chicken thighs and some tomatoes.

I then headed home. About three blocks from Sam's Club, I stopped at a Kiosko to buy a bag of ice to slow down the decay factor of the frozen goods. When I opened the hatch lid to put the ice in a storage box, I noticed a strong scent.

I was then off to Monkey's to buy some fried chicken. Monkey's is another example of how my senses of smell and taste have changed. I have always enjoyed the chicken there, but I must have been getting bored with it (even their piquante variety) because it just did not interest me anymore.

With the return of my smell and taste, the chicken is now completely new. Either Monkey's changed its recipe (not very likely) or my taste has shifted to another level.

When I brought my to-go order (for Yoana, Omar, and me) to the car, the smell in the SUV had increased. It smelled as if someone was currently smoking in my car. Not that stale cigarette smoke that lingers for months, but that "someone-is-having-a-coffin-nail-at-the-table-next-to-me-in-a-restaurant" smell.

That was obviously not the case. Unless I had taken up smoking and had completely forgotten about it, I was not the culprit. And there was no one else in the car.

I took a deeper whiff with the hatch lid open. It was the perfume that Cottenelle adds to its "soft" toilet paper." I usually never notice the scent roll-by-roll in my bathroom. But herded together, the cumulative smell was almost overwhelming.

I am certain the good folks at Kimberly-Clark never intended their toilet paper to smell like a cheap strip club in 1970s San Francisco. Perhaps it is part of the Nostalgia Collection.

I find it a bit ironic that the lingering effect of the virus has affected the way I smell the scent in the toilet paper -- considered the rocky relationship toilet paper supply had with covid.

My altered senses have been an advantage in my quest to never prepare the same dish twice in my kitchen. Everything tastes new. And that is great.

There is only one downside. Almost everything that contains tomato now tastes extremely bitter to me. But I have discovered that combining various seeds in my tomato dishes tames the bitterness.

I just need to experiment more. And there is nothing to complain about in that.

But I may need an ash tray, instead of a wastebasket, for my toilet paper.

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