Embrace The Crunch

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Most of us never give much thought to how our sense of smell influences our sense of taste. The pleasure from appreciating the dimensions and nuance of flavors disappears when you lose your ability to smell. When this occurs later in life the impact is a difficult adjustment. While Superficial Siderosis may bring many neurological changes one of the more exasperating symptoms is anosmia. Cooking for someone with anosmia requires planning along with a little experimentation. Be prepared to embrace the crunch.

Anosmia, the absence of olfactory sensation can either be congenital or acquired.

Gary’s sense of smell faded slowly, taking more than ten years to completely disappear. Pretty handy if you’re asked to dispose of something stinky but a poor trade-off for being able to enjoy the scent of fresh flowers or the aromas of an excellent meal. Keeping meals interesting for everyone at the table is not easy.

The focus now is all about texture; the crunch, creaminess, and chew factor. Highlight your textures with sweet, salty, bitter or spicy. Experiment with creating combinations so mealtime doesn’t devolve into a tedious ordeal. Acquired anosmia is often linked to malnutrition when people lose their interest in food.

Overcooking fresh or using commercially canned products have zero flavor and the mouthfeel of baby food.

Vegetables will be tricky. You can avoid this by very lightly steaming or oven roasting fresh vegetables to a hint past raw. I’ll steam carrots just enough to soften the outer edge and then caramelize them in a sauté pan until they’re crispy. Cinnamon is a spice that will give a hint of something to Gary from the taste receptors on his tongue, so adding cinnamon with brown sugar or honey to the pan will produce something satisfying.

Technically, the definition of ‘taste’ should a description of the gustatory qualities of your taste buds and the sensory sensations of your mouth. Someone with anosmia will be able to distinguish basic primary tastes of sweet, salty, sour, umami and bitter. They will also feel the heat of capsicum. These are chemical signals your brain interprets as taste.

While anosmia is the loss of smell the true loss of taste is termed ageusia.

Crunchy, anosmia, fried green tomatoes
Cornmeal crusted fried green tomatoes

Nuance in flavor is no longer as important as contrasts. Gary can eat ice cream with his eyes closed. He will be able to tell you it’s cold, it’s creamy, it’s sweet, but he won’t be able to tell you the flavor. Try to pick brands that are full of textures and chunks-nuts, salted caramel, bitter dark chocolate chunks, etc. Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s was born with anosmia. That’s why their style of ice cream features such a variety of chunks and textures.

anosmia, roasted tomato
Roasted tomatoes with balsamic syrup, pesto and sea salt on grilled sourdough

We both loved a creamy butternut soup but a pureed soup no longer hits the texture mark. I now roast a baking sheet filled with a small dice of carrots, onion, celery, mushrooms, and butternut until the natural sweetness develops but the crunch is still there. I enjoy my creamy soup and Gary has pops of crunchy sweet vegetables.

grill
Prepping vegetables

Practice adding sweet-spicy glazes to meats or grilled vegetables. Balsamic syrup, bitter chocolate, coarse sea salt are good choices. Hot sauce and peppers will become a staple. A broiled parmesan crust will work wonders. Gary loves fresh mozzarella, lightly salted, and broiled until it becomes a browned chewy mess. Mix textures with fillings of either crunchy or creamy. Grill things until they are heavily charred. Whole carrots, lightly steamed, glazed with a honey/hot sauce combo are great grilled over an open flame until they are charred. Crunchy, sweet and hot all rolled into one.

Charred leeks, asparagus, carrots, and red onion

The best you can do is keep experimenting.

About Rori Daniel

Living With Superficial Siderosis began as a way to keep family and acquaintances updated after my husband Gary was diagnosed with Superficial siderosis in 2014. We invite you to join us as we share the details of our life, finding care, and the search for answers of how to navigate this extremely rare disorder.

3 Comments

  1. I used to be like Linda, until three years ago. I would sneeze at the slightest strong odour.
    Then I got a cold, it cleared for a week and then tried to make a come back. So I used a nasal spray to stop it from reoccurring.
    I lost my sense of smell literally overnight. I went to my doctor and I was told that it would possibly take 2 years to come back. No such luck. Its completely gone.

  2. I have the opposite especially when I encounter certain smells. I am allergic to perfume,air fresheners and some flowers. I use unscented products as much as I can. A severe reaction causes my nasal passages to burn and then I get hoarse from swelling in my throat.

    Taste is not so much of a problem although when I go out to eat my friends will remark how good something is and I don’t agree. Of course I keep adding spices to homemade food until it tastes good to me.

    • Hi Linda,
      Gary spent a number of years complaining of how things never smelled right. He would get a scent stuck in his nose that might linger for weeks. It was never a good one. Then he started smelling phantom odors that no one else could smell. Eventually, even the foul smells faded.

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