Cooking for the Cancer Caregiver

Well, now that my cancer treatment is out of the way, let’s talk about food, shall we?

There was an article I recently came across that was on Reddit – AITA? (Am I the Asshole for those who don’t know the acronym) discussing a boyfriend who no longer wanted to cook for his girlfriend because she was complaining that everything he had made lately tasted bad. TL;DR – turns out the sleuths of the group detected that they were expecting long before they knew it to be true! A happy ending, and no assholes in sight!

I experienced some taste sensation issues when I was pregnant both times. Baked macaroni and cheese seemed to be the worst culprit – it even smelled like gym socks! Luckily those problems go away as you progress in your pregnancy.

I learned cancer can do something very similar. Some of the weird things I experienced during my cancer treatment as far as taste were:

1. Metallic taste, especially when drinking from a can or out of an aluminum take out tray.

2. Lack of taste – I could not taste garlic at all. It just didn’t exist, other than to give me heartburn. Like eating cardboard.

3. Super-sweet – some things just tasted sweet, like cream cheese and yogurt – there was NO TANG to them!

4. Salty AF – aside from my salty attitude, there were times when things were so salty I could not eat them. Foods with a heavy soy sauce influence seemed to have this problem the most.

5. Bitter. There were some things that just tasted super-bitter to me.

So, being who I am I started researching the topic of improving the flavor of food while undergoing cancer treatment. There’s not a lot out there as far as recipes (which was my original search) but there was something called FASS, which stands for Fatty, Acid, Sweet, and Salty. Apparently how you can combat each of the problems I experienced is to tinker with the food a bit to counteract whatever you are experiencing. So, for the Salty AF, I just needed to add some lemon juice to counteract the salt. Bitter was solved by adding sweetness, as anyone who drinks cheap coffee knows. The sweetness was solved by adding lemon juice as well.

Metallic taste needs a combination approach – add some lemon juice and a little sweetness, such as honey or maple syrup. Cardboard food needs more salt until you can taste it, then add some lemon juice.

I will share a tip I found out when I was having bagels and cream cheese, only to find the cream cheese tasted too sweet and weird for me – I switched to a vegan cream cheese. Because it’s made with nuts and vinegar, it tasted the way my memory of cream cheese tasted!

One benefit I found was that I no longer had the strong reaction to hot vinegar that I had before cancer treatment. I could eat hot wings without vapor-locking! Alas, now that my taste buds have come back (Thank Goodness!) I now also have my vinegar sensitivity back, and hot vinegary things like buffalo wings make me lock up again.

This post only addresses taste issues during cancer treatment. In my next post, I will discuss texture issues with food.