Conor Hagen: Tasteless

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Taste and smell may be our senses most taken for granted, unless, that is, you’ve had COVID. Conor Hagen has this Perspective.

Ten days ago I felt a slight tingle in my sinuses. It’s a common sensation we’ve all felt, often an early indicator of a cold. I drank some water and figured it would pass. The next morning I tested positive for COVID-19. I was told to quarantine for 10 days and that one of my symptoms could be the loss of smell and taste. I woke up the next morning to my routine coffee. Something wasn’t right. I plucked a sprig of basil and held it to my nose, nothing. I smashed the basil leaf hoping to release its odors. Still nothing.

That night my wife and I had dinner outdoors, about 15 feet apart. The meal was black lentils with Italian sausage and asparagus, topped with Parmesan cheese. Typically a mouth-watering meal. Nothing. And so it continued...a fully loaded sandwich, nothing. Green curry, nothing.

When I was told about this being one of the primary symptoms of COVID, it never really registered with me what it must be like. Until now. It set in for me that our sense of smell and taste are likely two of the things that we take most for granted in our lives. They are ingrained in us. They help orient us to our surroundings. They tap into our primal fight or flight instincts. They are fundamental to our survival.

And just like that, gone.

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My hunger waned but I continued to shove tasteless food scraps into my mouth. I only ate because I knew I had to. I craved flavor. I considered eating an entire clove of garlic just to see what would happen. I crushed up dill seeds and held them to my nose, huffing away, hoping that a scent would break through.

A few mornings later I was sautéing onions, and there was a subtle flash of something. Eager with anticipation I sat down to eat the huevos rancheros I had prepared. As I bit down on the corn tortilla coated in salty egg, cheese and lightly charred onion, it was euphoric. I never knew food could taste so good. I tried to eat slowly, savoring each bite, but it was no use. It tasted so good.

I sat, with lingering flavors tickling my throat, in appreciation for what I had just eaten. I hoped that I would never again take for granted the privilege of tasting good food.

With a Perspective, this is Conor Hagen.

Conor Hagen is a filmmaker and photographer living in Kenwood.