By Robyn Flipse
The only symptoms of coronavirus reported when the pandemic began were fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing. I had none of them when I went to the Urgent Care Center on April 4, 2020 after four days of severe muscle aches. The doctor who examined me couldn’t find anything to explain why I hurt from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet, so decided to test me for COVID-19. He said it could take up to 48 hours to get the results, but the instructions were the same either way: rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take Tylenol for the pain.
The call came at 8:00 pm the next night and the results were positive. Little did this doctor or anyone else treating the virus know at the time that the list of symptoms for COVID-19 was much longer than initially proclaimed. Headaches, sore throat and runny nose were later added, among others, but the loss of my sense of taste was by far the worst unrecognized symptom for me.
While the social distancing required of everyone since mid-March and the home quarantine I had to endure following my diagnosis felt like unjust punishment, the inability to enjoy the flavors and aroma of my food was torture. There was so little I could do in my malaise I ended up fantasizing about what I wanted to eat all day. Fortunately, the area restaurants were still able to offer take-out service so my wishes could be fulfilled with a phone call and a credit card.
My first order was for Eggplant Rollatini and Pappardelle Bolognese from Pagano’s UVA Ristorante on Main Street. It arrived hot and carefully packaged for at-home enjoyment, but the experience waned after a few bites. I just couldn’t taste what I was chewing so stopped eating and packed it all up for another time.
The next day I decided I wanted a Jersey Mike’s Italian sub. I hadn’t had one in years, but still recalled how much I loved the first one I had 55 years earlier from the original shop in Point Pleasant where I grew up. Now there was a Jersey Mike’s a few blocks away on Main Street in Ocean Grove so the order was placed, but it, too, failed to provide the sustenance I was hoping for.
This went on for days as my cravings for high flavor foods led me to Luna Verde in Bradley Beach for a spicy Chimichanga, Medusa Stone Fired Kitchen in Asbury Park for their mushroom pizza with rosemary and thyme, and to Local Smoke in Neptune for a rack of St. Louis ribs. Sadly, they all failed to wake up my palate and I had to leave them uneaten like so many others things I tried.
Then there was a breakthrough. I was ten days post diagnosis, still achy, and down three pounds when out of the blue I decided I wanted some cheesecake from Del Ponte’s bakery in town. Since it is more cost-effective to buy an entire cake than just two slices, my boyfriend brought home a whole cake. He put a perfect slice on a plate and brought it to me on the couch where I had been languishing since the start of my confinement. I sat up and slowly pulled the fork from my mouth as the tip of the cake settled onto my tongue. Memories of cream cheese and sugar and vanilla flooded my brain as I shouted “I can taste it! “
My recovery from coronavirus came shortly after just as abruptly as it started. Two days after tasting that cheesecake my symptoms were gone. I was weak from the 12 days of inactivity, but I no longer hurt anywhere and best of all, I could taste and smell again. And while I know that cheesecake didn’t cure me of COVID-19, I will always think of it as the key ingredient that restored my tastebuds whenever I pass the Del Ponte’s marque on the corner of Main Street and Brinley.
# # #
Robyn Flipse has lived in Bradley Beach since January 2000. She grew up in Point Pleasant and fondly recalls her father parking his car in the borough, right about where her home was later built on Lake Terrace, so he could walk her and her two sisters into Ocean Grove to visit their grandmother on Sundays since the blue laws in effect at the time forbade driving and parking in that town. Her grandmother would then would walk them all to the Asbury Park boardwalk and let them indulge in as many rides, arcade games, and boardwalk treats as ten dollars in quarters could pay for. Robyn’s favorite treat was a vanilla and orange cream swirled Kohr’s Frozen Custard on a sugar cone. She can still remember the taste.