COVID-19 Strips a Food Lover’s Sense of Taste
By Christopher Ahn
(LACC) — I lost my sense of taste five weeks after testing positive for Covid-19. A foodie’s worst nightmare became a reality.
I waited for a negative result, so I could enjoy outdoor dining with my friends. I listed everything I craved and used Yelp to figure out what I should eat. Korean barbecue was at the top of the list.
I missed the sweet marinade of traditional bulgogi that consisted of soy sauce, sugar, onion and garlic. I desired the rich texture of golden brown pork belly and the chewy bite of beef brisket.
I tested negative for Covid-19 after five weeks, and I gathered my friends to celebrate. Korean barbeque had to be the first outdoor dine-in meal. I was craving it for a month.
My friends and I went to Moodaepo in Koreatown. The average wait time was about two hours, but it seemed worth it. Everyone else waited to be seated. My friends and I were in the car planning what to order and how many pounds of beef we should consume.
My mouth salivated as we talked about beef brisket and pork belly. I couldn’t wait to indulge in oily and chewy meat. I wanted to wrap my meat in red lettuce, add a dash of sesame oil, add a raw garlic and a raw jalapeno.
I pictured myself eating to regain all the weight I lost during my Covid-19 quarantine. When my phone rang, our table was ready.
We ordered the most expensive set on the menu which included short ribs, and premium ribeye. We sat down and enjoyed the outdoor scenery. The sound of meat cooking and grills filled the canopy.
The rustic stove top was powered by a small propane tank, and the Christmas lights reminded me of eating barbecue in Korea.
The lights turned on when it got dark, and it seemed like Christmas came early in July. The festive light set the holiday mood — 2020 seemed normal at that point. People were enjoying a meal with their friends and family.
My expectations were higher than before. The ambiance was right and my stomach prepared for what was coming. My party consisted of three people, but we ordered like there were eight of us.
As soon as the meat hit the grill, I was ready. I could only hear the meat sizzle as my friends updated me about their lives. I grabbed the main course as soon as it was ready and wrapped it with red lettuce.
I added raw garlic and jalapenos and drizzled it with sesame oil. My mouth and stomach were ready. As soon as I took a bite, I could feel the fat, garlic and oil in my mouth, but I tasted nothing. My body was COVID-19 free, but my symptoms lingered. I took another bite, but the results were the same.
Covid-19 entered my body after a day of errands. I shopped for groceries. I washed my clothes at a laundromat, and I visited the gym to see if it was safe to join. What seemed like a regular day had more in store.Christopher Ahn
I suffered a major headache later that day. I lost my sense of taste and smell two days later. I knew I was positive for Covid-19, but where and how confused me. I back-tracked my whole day and convinced myself I was safe and prepared to go out. Until, I realized I took off my mask for a minute to scratch my nose in the car.
I self-quarantined for five weeks. My parents left food in front of my room. The food was not exciting because I had no appetite nor sense of taste. My stomach only craved food outside my house. I expected if I ate what I wanted, I could regain my taste. I counted the days until my sense of smell would come back.
My taste buds remain dissatisfied. No matter what I order or cook, I only sense texture. Now, I feel blind when I cook. I hesitate to add salt to my food because I fear the food will be salty. I used to be able to solve this issue with a simple taste test, but now I cannot. I have to rely on the food’s texture to determine if it is spoiled.
Two months after testing positive for COVID-19, my taste is slowing coming back. Exploring new food does not excite me anymore. I can barely taste the salt on my hamburger or the tomato in my spaghetti. Each time, the experience is disappointing.
I used to enjoy going out with friends and eating food. Food is a social activity. I cannot wait for my sense of taste to return. Covid-19 took away my simple privileges of tasting and smelling. Still, I am glad it stopped there.