Covid’s Culinary Catastrophe: The Tale of the Chef Who Lost Her Senses

I’d spent all week looking forward to it – crispy orange tofu, one of many recipe ideas I’d been planning to contribute to Bath Time. Alas, it soon turned out I was absolutely not onto a winner and had instead prepared perhaps the blandest meal I have ever encountered, aside from perhaps a plain bowl of rice. Not ideal.  Meanwhile, to my confusion, my housemate reported that the smell of my food had apparently reached its way into every corner of the house. 

As I stared into the disappointment that was my dinner, another housemate then suggested that it was possible that the coronavirus that had been plaguing him had likely made its way into my system. I was absolutely not having that, having previously been convinced that my uniquely powerful immune system had miraculously shielded me from the inevitable. One tolerable bite into a raw onion and a positive coronavirus test later suggested otherwise, and I accepted what was going to be a joyless couple of days without the smell or taste of food, (but fortunately nothing else too serious in the way of symptoms). 

You could definitely do far worse than losing these two senses for a while, but I must say that one week in, I am at my wits’ end. With little else to do these days, cooking has become even more important to many of us than usual, acting as one of the only sources of entertainment and serving as a genuine highlight of my day. It has now become yet another chore and a daily period of heartache as I reminisce about all the good times I had spent eating in my former life.  

Of course, this symptom was not without some initial upsides. Suddenly, healthy and unhealthy foods were theoretically on par flavour-wise, making it the ideal time for a health kick to help my body rid me of the virus. In comes a bowl of all the salad-related dregs of the isolation Tesco order from the week prior – a nice mix of deteriorating celery, cucumber, onion, iceberg lettuce and a significant amount of lemon juice (just to feel something). Not my usual favourite, I thought it might be somewhat bearable if flavourless. Wrong – turns out that salad still sucks, and bleak watery ingredients still taste both bleak and watery.  

Soon came the realisation that salt was the only flavour that remained, and this really side-lined my short-lived health kick. With no vessel for salt better than the potato, they soon became my whole life and personal isolation saviour. My daily menu now revolves around the potato, and I have successfully made my way through more than my fair share of chips, wedges, jackets, mash and roasties. All breeds of potato now hold a special place in my heart, but none more so than the humble crisp. Although initially disappointed by experiencing only the faint burn of a sweet-chilli Sensation and the strange flavourless acidity of prawn cocktail, I was soon informed that salt and vinegar Walkers are a beacon of light in the darkness that is having no taste. Somewhat worryingly, my bin is now stacked full of empty green packets, but at least I have had a crisp-shaped piece of joy during the boredom of the past week.  

Although the sensible advice if you have the misfortune of catching coronavirus is to keep up the veggies and give your immune system a helping hand, I must also advise keeping some starchy delights on standby. If you’re going to stockpile anything this lockdown, let it be the holy potato.   

As the saying goes – a potato a day keeps the corona blues away. 

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