Arnon Grunberg

Tasting food

A recipe book

On the loss of smell – Emma Bubola in NYT:

‘Michele Crippa’s palate was renowned in Italy’s gastronomic circles, capable of appreciating the most subtle of flavors.
He taught young chefs to distinguish between Parmesan cheeses of different ages — and between milk extracted at different altitudes. He reveled in the perfume of cod smoked over pine cones. In his reviews for Italy’s pre-eminent food magazine, he discerned the scent of champagne in raw Nicaraguan coffee beans and tasted traces of green peas in a blend from Kenya.
Then, at 9:40 a.m. on Mar. 17, 2020, Mr. Crippa, 32, poured himself a cup of coffee. He tasted only hot water.
Like so many people who have contracted the coronavirus, Mr. Crippa lost the ability to smell — so intrinsic to tasting food — and when it returned, it came back warped.’


‘Like many doctors around the world, who are now recommending training at home, Mr. Crippa and his partners think recalling a memory connected to a smell can help reactivate the neural pathways disrupted by the virus.
They started organizing online training sessions, posting tutorials and spending hours giving personal advice and pointers. National radio and TV shows have invited on Mr. Crippa as a guest, and magazines have requested to share his 10-point guide to recovering the sense of smell and taste. He also is developing a recipe book for people who lost their sense of taste or have found it distressingly transformed by the virus.
As reports of his rehabilitation spread across Italian newspapers, he received messages from hundreds of people who had also lost their smell, including a mortified pastry chef in a three-star Michelin restaurant and disheartened sommeliers.’


‘“I was a super taster,” he said. “It’s something you are born with.” Until the coronavirus stripped it away.
“You sit at a table with your friends and you eat a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce that doesn’t taste like anything,” Mr. Crippa said. “That dry, tired, flat, muffled, carton spaghetti plate becomes emotionally debilitating.” When even a fraction of his lost senses came back in September — when for the first time in months, he caught a slight scent of coconut in his shower gel — it was so overwhelming that he sobbed.
Part of his mission is not only trying to help people recover their sense of taste but also to lend support to people going through what he did.
“When it happened to me,” he said, “I felt completely alone.” To further help those who contact him, Mr. Crippa often puts them in contact with Arianna Di Stadio, a professor of neuroscience who is experimenting with a treatment at Rome’s San Giovanni hospital that is showing good results in helping patients retrieve their sense of smell.
Dr. Di Stadio said Mr. Crippa’s gastronomic approach to the loss of smell was far from being an assurance of success. But bringing more attention to the problem, she added, could only help.
“I am a scientist,” Dr. Di Stadio said. “He has a simpler way of communicating.” The group that had signed up for his training sessions in the sensory lab of Piacenza’s Catholic University of the Sacred Heart said that the support Mr. Crippa offered was a vital part of the experience.’


‘Mr. Crippa knelt by Ms. Madaschi and asked her to remember “the taste, the texture, the smell” of the nuts. She couldn’t. But then he gave her a vial containing mint and guided her across her memories of a summer night.
“Virgin mojito,” said Ms. Madaschi, remembering the minty smell of the drink. “I would have never recognized it by myself.” Mr. Crippa said such small moments of success boosted his commitment to helping others regain what he loves most.
“Do you have any idea,” he said, “of how much I miss Barolo tastings?”’

Read the article here.

I lost my ability to smell in June 2020, I believe it happened in Florida where I was for a series of articles about Covid in the different states of the US, it turned out to be a series of articles about BLM, but that’s another story.

Recovering your smell – most of my ability to smell or at least a lot of it came back after six months or so – is, as we can see in this article, a Proustian undertaking. It’s all memory, believe you can smell, and you will smell. Think of all the smells of your youth.

Losing the ability to smell is not only something negative. Somewhere in July 2020 I was having lunch with a friend on a terrace in the East Village. She said: ‘The smell of garbage is overwhelming.’ I answered honestly: ‘It doesn’t bother me at all.’

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