Cancer took her sense of taste—and may take her life. But it won’t diminish her food love.
It’s not every day that you see an essay about cancer, food, and sensory experience on the opinion pages of The New York Times. But writer and former bar owner Tracy Kennard shared her story of experiencing a cancer of the throat and nose—critical body parts for consuming and enjoying food. Months of radiation meant she could barely eat and still subsists on blandish, calorie-boosting foods that slide down easy and stave off malnutrition, which almost killed her. Her tongue can’t tolerate the sting of tomatoes, and her throat can’t withstand the sumptuous noodles she’d once coveted in steamy ramen shops. Her descriptions of the foods she has loved—and craves—make it easy to miss her short mention that she’s not expected to survive this rare condition. This essay is a memoir of mortality, a document of death and desire. Once you understand that, you don’t wonder why she savored three yellow gummy bears before bedtime one night or dreams of a greasy burger on an English muffin. Hunger is as emotional as it is physiological.