Tastebud Tricks

Thanksgiving Feast

by Christie Perkins

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy taste buds are salivating.  Chemo killed my taste buds for Thanksgiving last year.  Though chemo had been done for a couple of weeks they were still in slow recovery, numb to my Thanksgiving feast.  This year is going to be different.

Much, much different.

And I can’t wait.  Last year I was actually grateful for stuffing.  I hate stuffing.  Toasted buttered bread slopping up water is just glorified floaties, in my opinion.  Ok, I’ll stop.  Now I’m ruining your appetite.


But I do have a point.

Taste Bud Changes During Chemo

I have always taken for granted my taste buds.  During chemo food no longer soothed me.  Tomato soup once triggered warm memories of sitting under a shade tree with my best friend.  We used to dip our cheese sandwiches in soup… the only soggy bread I’ll ever stand.

I was craving tomato soup one day during chemo treatments so I fixed me up a bowl.  It sounded so good.  But, at first slurp, the soup tasted wrong.  I didn’t realize how much food had a positive association with memories until all my memories were being skewed.  I couldn’t finish my bowl of soup.

Those 10,000 little taste bud memory cards all malfunctioned during chemo. My kids repeatedly told me how lucky I was that I couldn’t taste dinner.

That’s how good of a cook I am.

Simple Salty Solutions

It was strange not to be able to taste my food.  Most everything was bland.  I ate merely for the sake of nourishing my body.  Blind taste buds gave me a heightened sense food and it’s affect on my body.

I felt noticeably better when I ate well rounded meals.  My stomach didn’t churn as much and my overall well being was more solid if I was loaded up with nutrients.  I’ve always known the health benefits of proper nutrition but my blind taste buds helped me to really see, and feel, this truth.

But, still, taste was important to eating and enjoying what I ate.  It’s hard to swallow cardboard pizza.

So my mom found me a taste buds seeing eye dog.  And what a world of difference it made.  She bought a book called The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson.  The book recommends using sea salt verses table salt because it stimulates the nerves.  Sea salt was my taste buds seeing eye dog.  Thank you Mom.  With only a little sprinkle, I could actually taste what my brain remembered as pizza.

Small things, like sea salt, can have amazing results.  For me, prayer and scripture reading are those little things that add flavor and a burst of life satisfaction.  I am thankful for the little things with big impact.


Sweet Tooth Aversion

Sugar was disgusting.  Yep, nasty.  How could I forget the first time I ate a graham cracker after chemo!  The sugar created the most horrific aftertaste that caked my entire mouth.  You know how you drop your tongue and puff out hot air from your throat as if you want to burn off the flavor?  It never works and you look ridiculous in the process.  Yeah, that was me.

My mouth became ultra sensitive to sugar.   Yes, I admit it was a blessing for awhile. But, some days I just wanted a cheesecake, cookie or to lick the inside of the can of sweet and condensed milk.  

Yes, I’m serious.

Right before my cancer trial I was feeling that life was really sweet… maybe too sweet.  If you are having an up moment in life soak it in.  Live it.  Love it.  Remember it. Don’t waste your sweet time with unnecessary things.


Bitter Bites

I didn’t even try chewing on orange peels but it seemed to be the repercussion to anything sweet.  It was probably the strongest flavor during my entire cancer journey.  Most everything was flavorless but if I could taste anything it would be bitter.

During struggles this too seems to be the strongest flavor.  But, my advice is not to completely avoid anything sweet (in cancer or life) but to find new things that make life sweet and takes the edge off of bitter.  It most likely will not be the things that used to be sweet to you.  Which is what makes the bitter so poignant.

Maybe things have changed with friends, work, or health.  This is the time to find a new sweetness in family, creative outlets, or inner strength.  It will override the bitter you are going through.  I’m grateful for the added sweetness bitter forced me to find.



I love grapefruit.  I like how it bites you back just a little.  During chemo, I only ate one grapefruit.  Without the gush of sour spray, the grapefruit didn’t entice me any more.  It was as if someone sucked out the juice an pumped it back up with water.   Mmmm… Hmm. Yummy, flavorless flop of an excuse for food.  Yes, I’m being sarcastic.  It earned a zero reaction and gave me zero satisfaction.

Sometimes a sour life can lead to zero reaction and zero satisfaction.

I totally get it.

Maybe it’s because you have been giving your all, surviving on hope but you never really see anything from it.  Listen up (you know this): good always comes from good efforts.  Are you putting your whole heart into your hope?  Are you taking the action necessary to acquire that hope?  Are you holding back?  There may not be immediate results but joy is waiting in a little package just for you.  Hope for it.  Look for it.  No doubt, you’ll find it.

Work at what you hope for every day.  It’ll come, be patient.  I believe hope is an unspoken prayer.  And I know prayers are heard.  One day a burst of flavor will come gushing out.  You won’t be just aware of your existence but how you make a difference in the world.  You are a unique flavor the world is waiting for.  Don’t give up.  Work hard at the good things you want.

You may have to gnaw on watered down grapefruit for now.  It has nutritional value, you just may not know it yet.  Keep at it.


Looking Forward

I’m happy to say my taste buds are back and last year’s bland Thanksgiving was just a little tasteless memorable bump.  Life has it’s little bumps, endure them well.

We are meant to have a little sweet, salty, bitter, and sour.  Maybe, just maybe, your bitter moment is something sweet in the works.  Change your thoughts and tell your brain there’s something good in all of this.  You just may have to wait a year to see it.

Until then, enjoy the stuffing if you can.


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8 thoughts on “Tastebud Tricks

  1. Thank you for sharing your life with us. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without you. Love you! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!

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