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Guest Opinion

What I prepared when COVID came to dinner

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Until Nov. 13, 2023, I was one of the lucky ones who had escaped getting COVID. Despite all of my precautions, obsessive cleaning, and keeping up with all my vaccines, it found me.

I am pretty sure where I got it. The timeline fits perfectly. I attended a crowded gathering of like-minded women with community spirit and noticed that many guests were wearing masks. I wondered if they were wearing them for protection or because they already had symptoms and wanted to spare others.

I started feeling symptoms three days after the event when I came down with a terrible sore throat soon followed by total malaise, fatigue, pounding temples, insomnia, stuffed and dripping nose along with a baritone voice. They lasted four days and improved quite quickly.

Then the worst hit me. My sense of smell and taste were gone. How does one live without these two senses? My friends call me a foodie since cooking is a passion and a wonderful path to easy fulfillment. But what is the point in preparing good food if everything tastes like nothing? And the aroma that should fill the kitchen’s air doesn’t register?

The only thing I could discern was the texture of the food, and texture alone is not enough and can actually feel icky.

After some thought, I came up with a plan of action: to cook foods that are especially strong, spicy hot and pungent.

I slathered baby back ribs with barbecue sauce made of ketchup, molasses, honey, paprika, mustard, oregano, and Worcestershire sauce. Nothing came through to my senses except the visual. They looked appetizing but could not fool the others.

Beforehand, I poured myself a favorite botanical, Barr Hill Gin. Again, my senses failed me. I could only taste and smell the alcohol. Down the drain it went. Then I tried to see if a great bourbon would make a difference. Nothing. Next, I poured myself a glass of Jack and was thrilled that some iota of whiskey was detected.

If you experience such losses, might I suggest you consider preparing these few foods that jumped the smell and taste barrier: Prosciutto di Parma and other cured meats; pasta with pesto; anchovies with anything your heart desires; deviled eggs with hot paprika; roasted asparagus and broccoli; spicy sausage; citrus; and a sleeper, Grape-Nut Flakes.

As for drinks there is one wine that hits the spot: Sauterne. And of course, the aforementioned Jack Daniels.

In time, I recovered my senses, although not completely. Here’s hoping that I will soon be able to fully smell that D’Artagnan pheasant roasting in the oven to be shared with friends before it becomes frostbitten in the freezer.

Susan Sandor lives in Solebury.


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