Yesterday evening I was visited with a strong case of bad childhood memory. We were at a fancy restaurant in our small town, me and the kids, a kind of pre-Christmas I'm too tired to cook and we're spending money like water anyway celebration. General chat and giggles, making fun of Sam's bad hair and Imo's work schedule and my sniffles and Thea's taste in music and Ed's handcuff idea (long story -- another time), and working out how we would keep the tree alive and vertical. Chris the waiter came by with first courses, and I took a bite, and ... nothing.
Nothing, I tell you. I had lost my sense of taste. I took another bite. Still nothing. I could feel the fish in my mouth, and I had a vague sense of a spicy sauce, but no flavour. None at all.
I went right back to childhood, shedding decades in no time at all. I was nine, a hearty chunky boy with a good appetite, and, at that moment, a cold in the head. Mom had cooked spare ribs, one of my faves. I picked up my first rib, slathered on some barbecue sauce, bit good and hard, and tasted ... nothing. I was horrified and indignant. I demanded to know what was going on. My parents explained how taste and smell are connected, and I ... I was devastated. I wasn't going to take this. Not on rib night! My nose was stuffed tighter than my pants (which was saying something back then; anyone who was at all chunky back in the seventies knows what I mean). I wondered how I could loosen things up -- and thought of exercise.
It was a crazy idea, but I was desperate. I left the table, and started running up and down stairs. Mom called for me to come back. You're not supposed to leave in the middle of a meal! she called. I didn't listen. Dinner without tasting it? That wasn't a meal.
Up and down I ran, until I was puffing and panting and my nose was running like a tap. I blew hard, ran to the table, and took a bite of ribs. Mom was frowning, but Dad had a bit of a grin going on.
Well? he asked.
Miracle! I could taste. Oh, what a heavenly moment that was. Sadly, three bites later I had lost my sense of taste again. I needed another couple of flights of stairs before I took my next bite. And three bites later ... It took me almost an hour to eat dinner, and when I was done I was tired and I had a cramp. But it was worth it.
All these memories came back to me in a rush yesterday. Sadly, I am now too old, or socially aware, or scared, to gallivant around Cobourg's best restaurant in order to recover my sense of taste. Or maybe I don't care about food quite as much as I did when I was a kid. Whatever the reason, I ate and smiled. But inside, I was dying.