During a recent bout of illness, I lost my sense of taste and smell for over a week. It made me realise how much I rely on smelling food for it to be appetising and, if it hadn’t been for physical hunger pangs, I wouldn’t have wanted to eat much at all. And, not being able to taste the food meant that I finished meal times as quickly as possible; there was no incentive to linger over putting food into my mouth.
This was the first time this has happened to me and I feel real sympathy for my sister-in-law who lost the ability to taste and smell following a heavy cold two years ago, has never recovered those senses and has to rely on her ‘food memory’ as she eats.
I’m currently watching Masterchef on UK television, one of my favourite programmes: whether the amateur, professional or celebrity version.
It does seem strange that these programmes are so popular – in many different countries now – because, although there is some sense of jeopardy as the chefs battle with undercooked or overcooked main courses, desserts which have refused to set and the ever-present ticking clock, the audience is excluded from the most important part: tasting the final result.
We have to rely on the appreciative (or unappreciative!) comments of the judges and food critics who get to taste the food, helped by our knowledge and experience of some of the ingredient combinations used, and our food memories so that we can imagine how the food tastes without actually eating it.
I’ve recently been enjoying trying out different kinds of prayer, guided by Amy Boucher Pye’s 7 Ways to Pray** which introduced me to the concept of ‘slow, deliberate reading of the Bible, chewing on the words and being wonderfully and luxuriously fed without anything physically passing my lips.
3 Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth. (Ezekiel 3:3 NIV)
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34 NIV)
What wonderful reminders that we don’t need to be able to physically eat something in order to get the most amazing ‘taste’ sensations; ones which will refresh us, stay with us and keep us healthy.
Today, with 31 days left until the shortest day of the year, I’ve felt the first twinges of Seasonal Affective Disorder: feeling tearful for no apparent reason and having a lump in my throat.
It must be time to dose myself with some of Ezekiel’s ‘honey’!
** 7 Ways to Pray Time-Tested practices for encountering God
Publisher: SPCK Publishing (2021); ISBN 978-0-281-08496-8