The present-day Dragon Palace!!
Here in the Dementia World, there is a present-day Dragon Palace (Ryugujo) in which time passes surprisingly fast. You might think only three minutes have passed after you have stayed there for an hour. You may feel it is still morning when it is already night. Experiencing strange distortions of time one after another eventually makes you lose track of it.
Since I started having symptoms of dementia, I have had such experiences fairly frequently. I think my sense of time has become distorted. Whether it is baking bread, grilling fish, or boiling noodles, my diminished sense of time makes it difficult for me to do things right.
The other day, I decided to cook dried wheat noodles. I boiled a pot of water, added noodles, and waited for what I felt was just the right amount of time. However, when I removed the noodles from the pot, they were clearly overcooked and very soggy. I thought I had boiled the noodles for one or two minutes, but more than ten minutes had passed.*1
Your senses of taste and smell are also important for cooking.
When cooking simmered dishes, I used to rely on my tongue for flavor. However, I do not have as fine a sense of taste anymore.*2 I often cook them too long or add unnecessary seasonings, unable to tell the flavor of the sauce that has soaked in.
At breakfast, I used to be able to tell when my bread was perfectly toasted just from the scent. Now, my nose no longer tells me how much my bread is toasted due to my diminished sense of smell.*3 Also, if I put butter on the table, make coffee, or do some other things at the same time, I will completely forget about the bread in the toaster.*4 Even when the bread is becoming totally burnt and black, I do not notice it until I finally see smoke coming up because I cannot smell it first.*3
While facing these constant challenges with time, I manage to prepare and finish my meal. However, I continue to live with a strange sense of time floating around me.
One afternoon, I was ensconced in the sofa and could not help nodding off. The next thing I noticed was that it was getting dark outside. The clock was showing 6, and I thought I slept overnight until dawn. However, it was actually 6 p.m. on the same day.*1
I felt hungry, but it took a while for me to tell if I should cook breakfast or dinner.*5
I have loved to cook since I was much younger, and I used to be able to prepare all my dishes simultaneously and have them all ready just in time. The steps I needed to follow would come to me naturally, and I didn’t have any problems following them deftly and all at once. I enjoyed smelling the aroma rising from my dishes or making slight, creative adjustments as I checked their flavors. I cannot experience these any longer. My body’s internal clock does not keep steady time, and, until somebody points it out to me, I cannot notice the discrepancy between my subjective time and real, correct time.
I thought about what I can do differently. Now, when I toast a slice of bread or boil noodles, I use a timer to know exactly how much time has passed. When I grill meat or fish, I check their color with my eyes to judge how well they are cooked. For me, sight plays an important role in knowing the right cooking times.
Relying on my eyes and timer, I still manage to cook every day. I never appreciated how convenient timers are when my body’s internal clock was helping me cook. The timer now works as my body’s “external clock” and keeps good time for me. The timer also reminds me of important things I should not forget.