After he lost his sense of taste and smell, Russell Donnelly assumed it might be COVID-related.
He took a rapid test, which confirmed that he was positive for the novel virus. However, his friends didn't believe that he could no longer detect sour, bitter, or spicy flavors in his food.
So, the 30-year-old sought to prove them wrong by conducting a COVID taste test and eating a variety of potent objects on a TikTok video.
In the clip, the Jersey City native took a hefty bite out of a raw red onion. "Nothing," he casually exclaimed in between chews.
He then took a shot of lemon juice, which also had no effect on him. And finally, he ate a spoonful of garlic paste. "Nothing," he said, noting, "this is a crazy virus."
“I'm lucky that no other symptoms came up,” he told TODAY. “I felt completely fine throughout the entire process. Never felt sick at all. I just lost my sense of taste and smell.”
He told the publication that everything he eats tastes neutral. Eating an onion, for example, tastes like eating juicy, crunchy cardboard. Some items, like wasabi, activate his sinuses, but he says it's as if someone "turned the switch off" on his taste buds.
“It just took all of the joy out of eating a meal, which is pretty sad. But I just start exploring textures — I've eaten a lot more chips than I would have in the past just because I enjoyed eating crunchy things,” he added.
Since the video has gone viral and garnered more than 18 million views, Donnelly, who has been self-isolating at home since November 5, turned it into a taste test series.
One of his friends brought him fermented shrimp paste, chicken gizzards and chicken feet to try next.
He noted that his taste and smell are starting to slowly come back. He's currently waiting on the results of his latest COVID test to see if he's out of the woods.
But there's hope for his video series: “If that's what the people want, I guess I'll give the people what they want, too. So even if my sense of taste and smell comes back 100%, I'm probably just going to keep eating gross stuff," he explained.