It’s December. Our once open plan, indoor-eco-wall, mini-fridge wielding city-centre offices have been converted into our kitchen tables.
I’ve been freelancing now for seven months. My first gig was in the tech industry, writing about how robots will eventually do my job faster, more intuitively and with much less coffee than me. Despite the bleak prophecy, I initially kept to that sector and didn’t branch out much – until five months ago when I pitched to be a food company’s copywriter. Addressing the anosmic elephant in the room, my opening line to them read:
“I’ve been anosmic for two+ years, meaning I can’t smell or taste. But, hear me out – I’ve also played Juliet in Romeo and Juliet despite having never lived in a house with a balcony, so…“
Instead of scrolling past the job listing, I outlined the reasons why I would be the best communicator for their brand – and a few days later, I got the job. Here’s how I turned my broken smell and taste into my biggest asset when pitching my writing services to the food industry.
– More people are becoming anosmic
A side-effect of more people knowing what anosmia is simply comes from more people developing anosmia. Since the condition jumped onto the official symptom list for COVID-19 in May, I’ve had an influx of messages from people finding one of my posts or articles, seeking advice on how to eat, cook, or feel enthusiastic about either of those things.
Their messages echoed what I said when I was first diagnosed – “How do I make myself eat when food is essentially tasteless cardboard?” The answer lies in how the food is presented – both visually and descriptively.
– ‘Tasty’ isn’t enough
Learning to enjoy food without the two main senses supposed to make it enjoyable is hard – as is trying to relate to adverts where food is helpfully described as ‘mouth-wateringly tasty’.
Spitting out superlatives to describe food doesn’t really do much for the consumer. But, if something’s squidgy, crunchy or crumbly, the experience will be the same. Mouth-feel is important, as it’s one of the only distinguishing features separating bread from cake (literally).
– Food is multi-sensory
The sizzle of something frying, the feel of steam hitting your face, the pop of a pomegranate seed between the roof of your mouth and your tongue.
When I’m looking at menus, I want to know more than just ‘it has onions in it’. I want to know their texture; if they’re crispy or caramelised, sliced or chopped. Whereas non-anosmics might look to balance flavours, I look to balance textures. These details mean a lot to me, and probably quite a few other people like me who are experiencing the same thing.
– It might be this way for a while
I lost my smell and taste from a bad cold in 2018, and it never came back. With one in twenty sufferers likely to experience long-COVID and a fair road ahead of us until a vaccine lowers infection rates, it’s likely more people will develop anosmia.
Communicating in an effective way without using traditional food expressions can be hard, but it’s not impossible. Next time you order, take a look at restaurants’ descriptions: do they look like they’ve considered the non-smelling, non-tasting customer?
I used to see my anosmia as a huge weakness, a failing of my own body to do the things it was designed to do. It feels like growth to have turned it into an asset and to write for a food company – and to do it well, unhindered by my disability. I hope this can inspire you to look at the things you may perceive as your weaknesses, and spin them afresh in a new light.