Saturday, February 11, 2017

Cooking When You Can't Taste

I woke up this morning hungry. That's probably a good thing, given that I don't think I ate again after about 2:30 pm yesterday. My digestive and taste issues continue in various ways, even after being off my chemo trial for eight days (almost half-way through the official break period).

I decided to make a smoothie for breakfast and mentally took stock of my grocery supplies, since I've been stocking up on more gluten free and dairy free options. I've not been sticking to either of the "free" paths completely, but I'm leaning hard in their directions.

I knew I had coconut milk, bananas, and frozen fruit, so I decided to go in that direction. A lot of recipes that call for bananas in smoothies specify frozen ones, and I do sometimes freeze bananas (especially if they're starting get overripe and I don't have time or energy to bake). In fact, I've done this for years. But I've always preferred the taste of fresh bananas to frozen ones honestly, and right now I find chopping anything frozen difficult with my neuropathy affected hands. So I went for fresh banana and some ice cubes.

My concession to "not quite dairy free" came in the form of greek yogurt, because I was hoping for a protein kick. Unfortunately, my plain greek yogurt had a definite very sour smell, which made me think it had started to go bad. Maybe not, but I'm highly sensitive right now to smells and tastes, and I knew if it had even started down that road, it wouldn't be good for either my extra bitter taste buds or my wonky digestive system. So I perused the stuff in the side of the fridge that my husband had bought for his lunches, knowing he wouldn't mind if I picked out a flavored yogurt. I found a dark cherry one, which seemed kind of perfect because I'd already picked frozen dark cherries as my complementary fruit to the banana.

Of course, the flavored greek yogurt had sugar, which mean I wouldn't be entirely sugar free -- something I thought I would do initially by sweetening with stevia or honey. Bur I would only throw in a couple of spoonfuls of the yogurt, so the sugar content wouldn't be much. I decided not to add any other sweetener just in case it was too much.

Was it? Is it? I have no idea. After eyeballing the ingredients (I was only making this for myself, so I didn't bother measuring) I put it all together, blended on low for a few pulses, and poured it out. Years of smoothie making meant I could tell the proportions were good because the texture seemed perfect. So I took a swig...and...I still don't know if it's any good, because my taste right now is so altered.

It must have been at least a little sweet, because right now only really sweet things can get through the terribly bitter filter that my mouth and throat have set up in part because they are dry as the Sahara (and yes, I have been trying many dry mouth remedies). This tasted somewhat bitter, but not hugely, as in "I feel like I'm drinking cough syrup" bitter, like a lot of things do right now (including pure water sometimes). The texture was lovely -- I think the coconut milk must have been pretty creamy, and the ice was broken down nicely as were the cherries. It smelled good. If there was a sour note, and it's incredibly hard for me to tell, I think it came from the yogurt. I think next time I might skip the yogurt entirely and either just add some sweetener and not worry about the protein, or I might throw in a bit of vanilla protein shake stuff I still I have (assuming it's still was mix I used during my chemo about a year ago, so I'd better check it).

Can you tell I am frustrated? I am. No beautiful post today, I'm afraid, simply a frustrated one. I can express gratefulness that I know this smoothie had good things in it and will probably stay in me, or so I hope. But it's so difficult right now to make anything food-wise, for myself or my family, when I can't taste anything accurately. When I cook for D and S, which I've been trying to do at least a couple of times per week, though my energy is not good in the late afternoon and early evening, I've been sticking to recipes I've done a lot before and hoping that the old measurements I wrote down for spices and seasonings were the ones I used to really use. The other night I made them flounder fillets, one of our family's favorite fish dishes, and by the time I got to making my oil, lemon, pepper, and garlic mix to spread on top, I was beginning to deal with nausea. I stuck to the old proportions. Was it good? I asked them later, and they told me it was, so that was good to know. I feel like I should start putting asterisks on recipes whose ingredients list I can trust to get the job done even though the cook no longer has the ability to tell whether or not something is flavored well.

In a week when I am dealing, for the first time in my life, with diminished eyesight (yet another side effect of the drug, and one we don't yet know if it is temporary or permanent) I am missing my taste buds a lot. They've been altered now for about two months, in ways that feel similar though also different to the ways they altered the last time I was in chemo. The difference here may be that it's possible I could be settling into this oral treatment for long-term, hence all the things I'm doing to try to get my body to tolerate it, although it has had a slew of side effects. I felt really hopeful when they first went over the list of effects because I didn't think I would have many (they have to list all the possibilities, after all) and because I knew this was a different kind of medicine that would target the mutation specifically and not blast all cells, regardless of whether or not they were healthy. But it turns out that I've run into quite a lot of the effects, and they are making it hard for me to enjoy a lot of the things I really do enjoy, including cooking, eating, and yes, even reading. But I'll save that one for another post. These effects could be here to stay, if I stay on the drug long-term. And even taking a break from it has not really afforded me complete relief, though at least the digestive issues have lessened in their intensity.

Right now I will continue to sip my smoothie, trying to imagine its flavors, and continue to feel grateful, a bit retroactively, for all the years I took my taste buds for granted.

No comments: