How can I change my cooking to compensate for having a cold?
January 11, 2011 10:53 AM   Subscribe

When I have a cold and therefore have a diminished sense of smell, what foods can I eat that still have flavor - and how could I adjust my cooking to make my meals taste less bland?
posted by * to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Anything spicy-hot will not only come through the olfactory fog but help open up any congestion you have.
posted by katillathehun at 10:57 AM on January 11, 2011 [7 favorites]

You want to go with foods that have strong mouth-tastes - salty, sour, sweet, bitter, meaty/umami, and spicy. Fatty foods will also taste good. OK, so it's not that healthy, but if it's only while you have the cold you'll be fine.
posted by mskyle at 11:11 AM on January 11, 2011

A food's "flavor" is almost entirely influenced by smell. "Taste" is comprised of the basic sensations of sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami/savory which you can experience without a sense of smell. During a cold, I usually eat for texture and the food's most basic taste. For umami taste and pleasing texture try chicken broth with rice. Soy sauce is another good umami addition to recipes, as is fish. Add lemon to foods for a sour kick. For sweets, try jello. Feel better!
posted by Katine at 11:12 AM on January 11, 2011

Having a cold and eating chicken soup means that whatever thyme, bay leaves, herby whatever, and the subtlety of the onions and celery flavors will be pretty much gone. To compensate, you can add extra of those aromatics, or you can just look at it as special sinus-congestion soup and ignore the smelly stuff - focus then on textures (noodles, rice, or barley? firm-cooked or mushy? chunks of chicken or shreds?) on accenting one taste family over another (like avgolemono sour lemon chicken soup vs spicy torilla chicken soup), and on cranking the things you like up to 11 (plenty of salt, plenty of garlic, plenty of tabasco, don't scrimp on the chicken chunks, etc)

One bonus for cooking while you're tired and foggy-headed is that the end-result difference between shaking in some cayenne powder and lovingly rehydrating and chopping some chipotles is not going to be as significant. Classic comfort foods tend to be just a few ingredients, so any foodie tendencies can be safely put on hold until you have a way of detecting subtleties again.
posted by aimedwander at 11:27 AM on January 11, 2011

When I have a cold, I tend to go for things like (chicken) soup with big shots of lemon, fresh ginger, and hot sauce.
posted by rtha at 11:28 AM on January 11, 2011

Tangy flavors usually come through despite congestion. Things like orange sherbert, key lime pie, and cranberry sauce, or vinegar-based tanginess like in pickles, mustards, and some BBQ sauces.
posted by amyms at 11:32 AM on January 11, 2011

Seconding spicy-hot and sharp flavors, like lemon and ginger.

When I'm sick, I love eating this easily thrown together kimchi noodle soup. It clears me up big-time, I can actually taste it, and on some level I'm kinda convinced kimchi is good for me so it has a nice placebo effect on top of all the yums.
posted by Eshkol at 11:45 AM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anything spicy-hot will not only come through the olfactory fog but help open up any congestion you have.

A bowl of spicy Tom Kha Kai is perfect for this situation.
posted by TrialByMedia at 11:47 AM on January 11, 2011

posted by Sara C. at 11:59 AM on January 11, 2011

When I'm sick, Mrs. Machine makes cháo for me. It's delicious. If you like preserved eggs, they add a nice flavor to this dish along with pepper sauce.

Basically, you need to aim for strong flavors.
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:01 PM on January 11, 2011

I usually go for spicy, lemony, gingery and/or garlicky. So Nothing... and like it's Garlic Soba Noodles would be perfect. (Bonus. Also delicious if you don't have a cold!)
posted by grapesaresour at 12:46 PM on January 11, 2011

I find that there is little I can taste through a cold, but that having interesting combinations of textures in my food is a good way to avoid the bland. E.g. crunchy and creamy (pretzels dipped in peanut butter, or celery and hummous, or ice cream with crunchy bits), or jelly with fruit, or a salad with nuts and leaves and chicken...
posted by lollusc at 2:31 PM on January 11, 2011

Spicy food always makes me feel better, all the more so when I have a cold. Nothing better for it than a pot of chili with plenty of onions, garlic, chili powder and peppers. Also lots of beans...since you can't smell, it probably won't bother you very much when you experience the inevitable farts that will come from such an explosive mixture.

Also, seconding Sara C.'s recommendation of Sriracha improves the flavor of anything, and can be tasted through all but the strongest nasal congestion.
posted by motown missile at 1:54 AM on January 12, 2011

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