I like cooking as much as I like eating which is to say a great deal! I can’t quite work out what I like best about the whole process. There’s the preparation which, with the colours and textures, can be a magical collection of moments. The feel of the raw, fresh ingredients and the movement of hands in the peeling, chopping, grinding and grating also can beguile. Then the cooking and seasoning with the aromas mixing and tantalising, the stirring and adjusting. The scents of the world wafting promises of good things to come – well!! As for the taste sensation in the eating – no words to describe. As I say, I like cooking and eating.
I have been considered quite a good cook during my life and I should have been as I was taught by one of the best. My mother was very good. Friends remember her by certain dishes and meals. She believed in stoking up the fires and serving beautiful food. I never cooked as much as she did because I wandered around the continents for years sleeping on floors, sofas and making do with pretty sub-standard food at times or no food at all at a couple of points of penury. However I could create instinctively as she could: a bit here, a dash there and a drop or two for luck.
Now when I am in the kitchen I get to thinking often about how good I once was, because I am not any more. Now my hands will not work the way they should, cooking perfection is sliding all over the place. Handmade pastry is almost an historic memory as fingers will not roll, wrists will not turn. Grating cheese should be easy and it is not any more, and as for dicing – well – suffice to say if I try it, watch out for extra protein in the amongst the veg and onion! My language deteriorates at every passing skill.
I grow ingenious because I cannot stop enjoying the cooking and eating. So sometimes if it’s flaky pastry that is needed I will buy ready made. My short crust has to be made in a mixer now; my friend makes the traditional crumble mix when she visits to put in the freezer and from another friend I have a crumble mixture done in a saucepan with oat flakes, no mixing at all.
With that in mind I searched out and found baking recipes for cakes and biscuits done on the stove and not requiring kneading. Cheese needed in a sauce? Cut some smallish lumps – melting time a little longer – tastes the same.
I make do and mend – the results are not always as smooth or well presented as they should be. The taste, colour and smells are the same – or are they?
After months of sinus trouble, which included blinding and frequent headaches, an operation and various courses of antibiotics, I appear to have been left with a distorted sense of smell and a very strange set of taste buds. For a while everything smelt and tasted as if it was ‘off’, ‘on the turn’ or just plain ‘rotting’ – I would sniff and frown, try again. More often than not, at the beginning of all this, I would discard.
I hate waste. Reasoning that everything I bought was fresh and either put straight into a fridge or freezer so it was unlikely all to be going bad at the same time, I took courage in both hands and persevered. I killed no one and they all seemed to enjoy the meals still. (Second helpings! Always a good clue.) Me? No, I was not enjoying it – all food tasted bad.
Over the months this has slowly improved in that it is now only a few foodstuffs that taste positively bad or weird all the time such as coffee, cottage cheese and oranges! Why those? All other food just tastes slightly odd, different than I remember, but sometimes they taste ok. I find it difficult now to create with confidence as the matter of seasonings relies heavily on the ability to smell and taste.
My food is becoming blander as I err on the side of caution. If I cannot somehow adapt to this I will have to follow recipes to the letter – I never have, nor my mother before me. To me, that will be the day I no longer find cooking an act of creation but just a household chore. I fight – I fight. If I can overcome the fingers and the wrists I will try my hardest to overcome this latest manifestation of the arbitrary oddness of fate.
All I have to do is adjust myself to the new tastes and smells. To face each meal as an adventure into the unknown. Hey, it’s variety that keeps us young eh!
Meanwhile we – the ENT specialists, local GP and I – work on the problem. Is it ENT problems, digestion or infection? We have not discovered yet.