The people who collect our recycling had a surprise last week: alongside the usual pile of paper and the mountain of cardboard and plastic wrapping, there was just one empty wine bottle. No, we hadn’t been away on holiday nor had we given up alcohol for Lent, it’s simply that my wife and I both had colds. Now I know that’s nothing compared to a relative and some of our good friends who are suffering much more serious health problems – all good wishes to them for a speedy recovery – but, while the colds were at their height, we found we really didn’t want to eat or drink much at all and then, as the worst part came to an end, blocked noses took over.
So, why was that a problem? Well, as I regularly explain to classes, most of what we usually call ‘taste’ is actually done through the nose and so, if your nose is blocked, as it often is after a cold, your sense of taste is diminished. The technical explanation for this is that our brain senses what we call flavours and aromas in the olfactory bulb, which is mainly reached via the nostrils but, also, from a channel at the back of the mouth called the retronasal passage. If those avenues are cut off or restricted by the after-effects of a cold or by other medical conditions or treatments, we struggle to smell or taste anything. And, as most of us drink wine because we enjoy the taste and smell, then, if those pleasures are denied, its best to leave the bottles where they are until, hopefully, healthier times arrive.
But, we have missed our wine. As the marvellous Joni Mitchell’s song “Big Yellow Taxi” says, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”. Exactly! Perhaps that’s why a traditional toast is “Good Health!”