Rassegna Stampa e Ultime Notizie dal Mondo

Joshna Maharaj – The chef who lost her sense of smell

Chef Joshna Maharaj standing in a kitchenImage copyright
Mel Yu Vanti

In January, chef Joshna Maharaj revealed a secret – she hadn’t been able to smell properly for about five years. Now, she’s working to regain some of what she lost.

Her loss of smell was gradual, though looking back she realised there had been red flags along the way.

Firstly, she was burning things. Peach squares, made with sliced “beautiful” summertime fruit, came out not browned but blackened.

“Sometimes you can trim and get away with it,” she says. Not this time. They ended up in the bin.

One day she walked into a BBQ restaurant with friends and was the only one who couldn’t smell the meat smoker working its magic.

“There was a moment where I retrospectively did all this math. ‘Wait a second, my nose is not working like it’s supposed to,’” she says.

“And to be honest, at that moment, the idea of it filled me with enough panic – particularly with the professional implications of this – that I just shut it all down.”

She told herself: “You are going to keep this secret, you are not going to tell anybody about this.”

The Toronto-born chef, food activist and author has worked with major public institutions, from universities to hospitals, to revamp the way they source, cook, and serve food.

Now she had anosmia, the complete loss of the sense of smell.

She became diligent about using cooking timers for everything, careful in case her nose betrayed her.

Her cooking shifted towards “mega flavour”.

Image copyright
Courtesy Joshna Maharaj

“Lots of garlic and onions and ginger and a giant curry that’s going to smack you in the face, or intense, intense, major rhubarb, or we’re going to go deep on strawberry.”

The flavours had to be bold, especially as her taste was also muted by her smell loss.

Anosmia can have any number of causes, from common infections to brain injuries. Recently, researchers have found a loss of smell or taste is a symptom of the coronavirus.

Ms Maharaj’s condition was caused by extreme sinusitis that led to polyps -noncancerous growths linked to chronic inflammation – in her nasal passage.

For years, she struggled with what felt like constant congestion.

“I tried all the things – Chinese medicine, diet change, acupuncture, constantly hoofing down decongestants. We had suspicions about mould lurking under the carpet of my apartment.”

In February 2019, she had surgery to remove the polyps and fix a deviated septum. In August, she regained a momentary sense of smell.

The first whiff she got was of a mango while on a trip to Bangalore. Her nose then gave her a glimpse of the incense and flowers in the lobby of her hotel. But in two weeks, her smell had disappeared again.

Over the 2019 winter holidays, she found herself in Croatia, and the trip brought home to her what she had been missing. Family would comment on the delicious smells in streets and restaurants. For her it was a blank.

There are smells she misses – campfires, garlic and ginger in the frying pan, the smell of newborns.

“I stuck my face all under his chin and nothing,” she says of meeting a friend’s new baby a few months back. “There was a sadness there, for sure.”

A friend also told her about the link between smell and emotio

 » Continua a leggere su BBC World News…