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California baker loses her taste and smell after getting COVID

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Think of the smell of a bakery - cookies, cakes, pies, fresh bread. You can almost taste it.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

But not for Hannalee Pervan, a chef and owner of One House Bakery in Benicia, Calif.

HANNALEE PERVAN: This has been my singular focus for my entire life. I obsess over flavors and how different ingredients make your taste buds feel. And now it's completely gone.

INSKEEP: January 2021 - she lost her senses of taste and smell, essential tools of her trade.

MARTINEZ: They slowly came back, but not like before.

PERVAN: Like, everything smelled and tasted like burning wood. Everything was rotting trash or rotting flesh or burning wood or, you know, pecans that taste like apples. And it was just like everything in my brain was misfiring.

INSKEEP: Her senses are still not back to normal. She says it's hard to eat because she can't take the smell, so she's relied on her family and colleagues to pull her through.

PERVAN: 'Cause I was essentially just cooking off of memory at that point, what I would imagine it should have tasted like. My mom and my pastry sous chef essentially just became my taste buds for the last eight months.

MARTINEZ: Hannalee says the past year has been nothing short of heartbreaking for her, but she's persevering and keeping her business going.

PERVAN: I would just cry and cry and cry at work. And I mean, most small-business owners know that you just can't stop just because you're crying, so you just keep working. And it's just - you come to a new way of life, essentially.

INSKEEP: She did keep working, and the customers keep coming in.

(SOUNDBITE OF LULLATONE'S "SOMETIMES IT'S HARD TO EVEN IMAGINE A BRIGHT SIDE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.