Foods, Tastes Change Because of the Coronavirus Crisis

The coronavirus health crisis has interfered with almost every part of daily human life—including what we eat.

Nearly a year into social distancing, many people are enjoying foods long forgotten or once rejected for taste, feel or smell. Some have added healthful food to their diets to strengthen the body’s natural defenses.

Home cooking activity is up everywhere as a result of restrictions on restaurants and other food shops. People are increasingly exploring new food experiences in their own kitchens.

The joy of pears

Maeri Ferguson is a 31-year-old woman living in Brooklyn, New York. She got COVID-19 last year and recovered. But, the disease damaged her sense of taste and smell for months. Many of her favorite foods no longer satisfied her.

Ferguson can again sense sweetness, saltiness and spiciness, although many foods still seem to lack a strong taste — but not pears. The fruit was not part of her pre-COVID diet.

“I knew what a bad, unripe pear tasted like but not a good one,” she said. Thanks to a gift from a friend, she pushed herself to find a good example. It was one of the first foods she could truly taste again.

“I’m a full convert,” Ferguson said. “I’ll never forget biting into a juicy, red pear.”

Fermented foods

Fruits are simple pleasures. But fermented foods have also become popular. Fermented foods last a long time in the refrigerator which is a help if you go food shopping less often than before.

Anastasia Sharova, a chef in Stuttgart, Germany, runs Happybellyfish.com. The company is an online cooking school that works on healthy food. It added fermentation classes in late 2019. Then, the coronavirus crisis hit.

Suddenly, interest in making kimchi and sauerkraut, two kinds of fermented cabbage; and miso, fermented soybean, increased sharply. Earlier, Kombucha, a fermented tea, had helped popularize home fermented foods.

“Health became…number one for many last year,” Sharova said. She added that being at home caused many to make cooking discoveries. She said fermenting things is like a community activity done by families or in online classes.

Thirty-year-old Alicia Harper also has discovered fermented foods. She is a nutritionist in New York City. She did not like the strong tastes and smells of fermented foods at first.

“Since trying them again recently, my opinion has completely changed. I have now grown to love the taste and smell,” she said.

Anne Alderete of Los Angeles, California, is now enjoying natto. Made of fermented soybeans, natto is popular in Japan but considered too unusual by many people.

“I’ve smelled it many times since I’m half Japanese and lived in Tokyo after college for seven years,” the 47-year-old said. But she never liked to eat natto before COVID-19.

“I feel somewhat virtuous when I eat natto because the health benefits are many, but it’s also because it’s brought me closer to my roots,” Alderete said.