Sunday, June 12, 2011

Questionable Taste: Culinary Adventures With the Parkie Chef

I've never been an adventurous eater. Aside from the usual dirt as a child, unintentional swallowing of bugs while bicycling, and rare instances of exoticism (chocolate covered ants anyone?) I've only eaten off the beaten path when forced to by circumstances beyond my control.

When obliged to improvise or experiment I've come up with some memorable meals. The kind of memories people drink to forget. Desperately short of food once while backpacking through Europe I found an ancient packet of plain, unsalted oatmeal at the bottom of my pack. Cooked up, it was bland in a hideous way that rendered it nearly inedible. Solution: Chef Pierre boldly mixed in an equally ancient packet of freeze-dried French onion soup. When added to the oatmeal it produced a savory, zesty creation even less edible than the plain oatmeal.

Since then I've developed a small but dependable repertoire of successful recipes that are nourishing and tasty. At least I believe they are tasty. Parkinson's can destroy our ability to smell. Taste depends greatly on smell. Without much ability to smell, the sense of taste is significantly dulled.

As far as the things that I've lost to PD go, this one is among the least troubling. It's much tougher to cope with the impact on my ability to draw and to play music and to do a host of other things I'll not bore you with here.

But there is one important symbolic aspect of food I still try to cling to. Cooking for someone is a demonstration of affection that bypasses words. To prepare food in a way that promotes health, gives pleasure, and requires us to take time to do it right sends a primordial message about how much we value those that we cook for.

I still try to practice this unspoken language of caring. But some of the messages I send can be mixed at best. What is your beloved mate to think when she comes home to your specialty "Stew a la Buffalo Top Sirloin That has Defrosted for a Week Too Long?" The fact that you eat it too only confirms that you are an idiot.

Another problem is overcompensating for inability to detect subtle flavors by going wild with the spices. Is there such a thing as too much cayenne and cinnamon in the curry? Theoretically yes, but I've yet to hit my limit. Why do you think Costco sells those enormous containers of spices? Not so you can be stingy with them, Wolfgang! And maybe this points the way to a possible solution. If I nuke enough of her tastebuds, we'll both be able to enjoy my cooking again.


ECleary78 said...

Isn't it amazing how unique we all are? If you lost your sense of smell it wouldn't really phase you, but if my husband lost his sense of smell he would be inconsolable, moreso than if he could not use his hands or walk. David is a sensualist who has always lingered tastes and smells or tried to pick out the notes within a certain dish of food. He is an accomplished cook and when it comes to eating, an indulgent snob. He loves talking about smells in the air when we walk through a forest or a perfume shop. You get the picture.
Luckily for us his palate is untouched by the PD for now. If only we could pick and choose what we lose...

Peter Dunlap-Shohl said...

It's funny how we adjust our ideas about luck to PD. Sure I have Parkinson's, but I'm lucky it mainly affects my left side, screwing up my ability to draw less than if it were predominate on the right. Those little things that break your way become so much more important in this context.