Wednesday 10 September 2008

A matter of taste.

One of my favourite questions to ask people – along with their top five songs, football team and favourite Beatle – is what their death-row, last-ever meal would be (you can tell I'm a sucker for those inane, reply-to-all email questionnaire things). My answer's been the same for years: a cheese and crisps sandwich (white bread, plenty of butter, Cheddar cheese, salt and vinegar crisps) and a mug of tea (very strong, no sugar). It's a pedestrian answer, I know, but a cheese and crisps sarnie and a good brew is my idea of the ultimate comfort food. (And if you think my death-row chow-down is chav, you should know that my Dad's would be a packet of Sports Mixtures and a pint of bitter.) So yesterday, anticipating the return of my tastebuds (something that usually happens on day five – AKA Fajita Tuesday for reasons I'll expand on later), I opened the fridge and carefully crafted my death-row lunch. And it sucked.

It's my own fault. I ought to have made sure my tastebuds were back in place before making the sandwich in the first place (that's about the limit of my culinary crafting, by the way – P's the chef around these parts). But I didn't, and it tasted like carpet. And now I'm worried that I've ruined the enjoyment of my favourite death-row meal forever. (That 'carpet' simile, by the way, seemed preferable to the usual 'cardboard' one. Likening taste to cardboard, as they do in the chemo leaflets, serves a good enough purpose but in truth it's lacking a bit, since food in those first few post-chemo days actually tastes of nothing. Not cardboard. Just nothing. So carpet seemed as good a bet as any. The sandwich might have tasted like wax or feet or concrete or fabric softener for all I know.)

Still, there was Fajita Tuesday to look forward to: P's invention to celebrate my return to taste with a spice-fest of a dinner. Even though I'd fallen short of getting any flavour from my lunch, I was sure that this would hit the spot – after all, it's proved a sizzling success two chemos running, and I was becoming impatient to get my favourite sense back. (The not-being-able-to-taste stuff hasn't hampered my appetite, sadly – and with experiments like this I fear it'll be the ruined tastebuds that get to my waistline before the steroids.) But again, nothing doing. There was something there, I'll give you that, and I definitely appreciated the consistency of the peppers, but it still didn't, well, taste. (Did I really just write that I 'appreciated the consistency of the peppers'? Sheesh. AA Gill, your job is safe.) After that disappointment I called in the big guns (actually, first I sulked a bit, then I called in the big guns) and took myself to bed with a tub of Banoffee Pie Haagen Dazs to give my palate one last chance. (Twisted logic, I know – like the chilli couldn't do it so the dairy would?) Now normally I can hoover up a tub of ice cream faster than you can say Rik Waller, but last night I only managed to scrape off the top layer of my Banoffee Pie tub (that's about half an inch in my book) before realising that it was fruitless (probably in more ways than one) and throwing in the towel. After the let-down of the cheese and crisps sarnie, not being able to taste Haagen Dazs is my final straw.

By the looks of it, all these tasteless troubles are getting to P every bit as much as they are me. He's not just the head chef in our household, but a bloody brilliant one to boot. P takes his cooking VERY seriously and, like every successful chef, he's a competitive little bugger too. And if I know him (and the frightening, defeat-will-simply-not-do look on his face right now), he's not going to be beaten to the palate punch by my chemo drugs. So as I type this daft post about what I've eaten over the last 24 hours (why I think you'll be interested in this stuff is beyond me), P is going in for the kill in our kitchen. He's got a super-spicy, master-blaster, choc-full-of-chilli soup on the stove and there's a powerful whiff of garlic making its way into the bedroom. This is it, people – it's tastebud boom or bust.

I fear it says a lot about my current predicament of bed-ridden boredom that I can type for so long about what I've been eating. (It says an equal amount about your work-avoidance tactics that you're still reading, but if you're prepared to let this one go I'll say nothing to the boss.) And anyway – cheese and crisps sandwiches, Sports Mixtures, fajitas, spicy soup... it's all good to make a turd, right? And, after days of chewing on constipation-causing pills, I dare say that's almost higher on my menu than a decent dinner.


Anonymous said...

I don't want to sound condescending, but I think you are SO brave. You're a talented writer, too; you could consider releasing a book about this later on. It might make other breast cancer sufferers feel a little better, the way you handle your situation with humour and optimism whilst not denying any lower emotions you might feel. You're really brave and I wish you all the luck in the world. xxx

Fletcher of the Day said...

Funny about Faijitas night. My husband's chemo required him to stay in the hospital for 6 days so we had standard meals worked out (the food REALLY sucked in the hospital)Day 1 was quesedillas, and Day four was always tacos.

My husband was diagnosed with his tumor (not breast cancer, obviously, but in the chest) on June 4th. Reading the article in glamour was interesting because of the similar time line (june) Situation (young-sh, 37, no kids) and the blogging ( In Amsterdam (where we live) my husband writes his blog, in english, It has become very popular here (small country, not much news..)and the support and attention he has recieved has been overwhelming.

I am not going through it myself, but as a partner of someone going through it I wish you and your husband well from Amsterdam.


Anonymous said...

That Hannah's a smart cookie, with excellent taste. Another cracking post, and yes we really are interested in what you eat and what it tastes like. I told you, EVERYTHING, ALL THE TIME.
But I'd like to take issue with 'all good to make a turd." your mother reads this. And she's one stylish lady. You just can't say turd. xx

Lisa Lynch said...

Are you kidding? My Mum's put up with this stuff for years, and the turd-talk is a positively delightful change from the usual round-up of everyone's hemorrhoids.

Anonymous said...

Is there any chance of that Banoffee Pie Ice Cream being there later when i arrive? Much Love, Bro.

Marc B said...

Can't help myself.

1) my horrendously obvious top 5: 'Common People' by Pulp, 'Mayonaise' by Smashing Pumpkins, 'Losing My Religion' by REM, 'Serve The Servants' by Nirvana, 'Feel The Earth Move' by Carol King

2) Leicester CIty, but only at a push? Football? nah.

3) Paul.