Food is one of life’s central pleasures.
Through research, and experience delivering 'food play' workshops, we have learned that issues such as swallowing difficulties, changed taste and flavour perception, the inability to socialise around food; they are all part of what we call “altered eating”. This steals joy from people’s lives.
Altered eating can occur for many reasons, and can show up across a range of conditions and circumstances that include: cancer; Parkinson’s disease; autism; stroke; dental problems; ageing; smell loss; poverty; air pollution; brain injury... How we think about altered eating has been revolutionised by new insights from research in the neurology of pleasure and the senses. Diminished sensory experience, the loss of joy in food and the importance of socialising around food underscore our interdisciplinary food play approach.
With years of experience in research and public 'pop up' food play/teaching events, we are still working to develop a 'food hub' in the Station Master's Centre to support those who live with altered eating difficulties. However... due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we have moved 'online' to the Altered Eating Mighty Network until we can work face to face safely. The Mighty Network is a free online and private space for people living with AlteredEating, for any reason, to gather, learn from each other and share the best available evidence of what works. You can find the network here:
"My inability to smell had eliminated the aromas that round out our full sense of taste. I had lost the bright notes of citrus, and the funk of anchovies and fish sauce. Gone were the contributions of onion, garlic, and herbs. All I had left were the flavours I could discern on my tongue—mostly salt and sweetness. I was now eating textures. It was as if I’d gone from a Technicolor 3-D movie in Dolby Surround Sound to a black-and-white silent film" Sofia Perez, The Food Writer Who Lost Her Sense of Smell, Literary Hub, November 2, 2017
Most people think taste is something they do with their tongue, but in fact we’ve found out that the tongue contributes very little: you get salt, sweet, sour, bitter, savoury (or umami), and now we know there’s metallic and maybe fatty acid. That’s all the tongue gives you. And yet, we can taste pineapple, melon, mint, strawberry, cinnamon, chicken, beef, lamb, raspberry and so on. We don’t have raspberry receptors on our tongue so we know that that’s actually coming from smell. Most of the things that we talk about as ‘fruity’ flavours or ‘meaty’ flavours — that’s all smell. Professor Barry Smith, 2019
“The boundary between the scientist and the chef is disappearing.” Professor Barry Smith, 2013
It is somehow easier to share experiences of cancer and its effects when the reason for gathering together is food – and thus social, and ‘normal’ – than if drawn together as patients, and because of one’s cancer. Val, cancer survivor, 2018
Head down and focused on the cheese sandwich John remarks between mouthfuls ‘definitely cheesy... mmmm’ … it’s lovely!’ His wife Val, standing beside him says “that’s the first time he’s ever had anything like that… isn’t it John”. John does not respond, but continues to eat until the sandwich is finished. from Altered Eating 'food play' with head and neck cancer survivors, 2016