To indulge in a mild bit of Oliver Sacksish storytelling, I've recently come off a very odd period of dysgeusia, which means that for almost a month food has tasted weird. Off. Bad. No matter what I eat (tap water, bottled water, crackers, tournedos a la Rossini), no matter when, flavors are upside down and wrong. Salty is bland, sweet is sour, savory is bitter. I wouldn't wish this phenomenon on Dick Cheney. Hmm, maybe he has it already; it's enough to make you sour and bitter yourself, to have the sense of taste not just taken from you but willy-nilly turned on its head. To make it even worse, everything smells fine--this isn't the no-taste phenomenon of the bad cold--everything smells wonderful, even, tantalizingly great, but it tastes horrible when it hits your tongue. I couldn't even read Gourmet or watch America's Test Kitchen, as you sometimes do for food solace when you have a cold--I was too pissed off.
However, gott sei dank, it is going away. As taste comes back in fits and starts I have been lurchingly enjoying food again, not sure what or how to eat. I'd like to say I was in an M.F.K. Fisher-like state of voluptuary calm about it all, but just the other day I called Fox & Obel to find out if there was any cayenne in their chocolate cupcake! There could have been (people often pair those flavors these days) but nope. It was my still hiccuping taste buds, all confused.
There have been a few spots of enjoyment, however. I thought perhaps my taste buds would awaken to the subtleties of a fresh spring pea shoot or strawberry, but, not too surprisingly, their rebirth is instead intimately connected to the strong flavors of cured meats and grease. To wit: