WIAW 200 – What They Eat
Wow. Two hundred What I Ate Wednesday posts! I’ve been writing them for four and a half years! (And yes, a little basic arithmetic tell you I’ve skipped weeks, here and there… )
I started this partly as a good way to get my blog out in front of new readers, since I also read and followed blogs I found here (and in other so-called link parties.) I continued because the posts illustrate what I write about in my recipe posts. I do, in fact, cook meat and use it later. I do, in fact, (or at least, did) freeze greens in convenient “muffins” for later use – and then I used them. I have, in fact, continued to cook mostly from scratch, with plenty of vegetables, despite the chronic migraine I continue to deal with – using the techniques I talk about in my recipe posts.
Life has changed, though. While I still do have chronic migraine, it is much improved, and vastly less debilitating than it was even two years ago. Meanwhile, though, we moved to live with Rich’s parents – and become caregivers.
And while talking to friends who also care for others tells me that food is a major concern, I find remarkably little information or support for cooking or eating unless or until you reach full prescribed medical diet (and get a dietitian involved. )
So I’m changing the slant of this blog a little. As I wanted to share tips I had learned for eating well despite my own chronic illness, and then for eating well on a gluten free diet (and both of those concepts are still along for the ride, as it were, since I’m still the one cooking) I now want to share what I am learning about cooking for the parents. Flavors that appeal to them, food that is easy to eat, ways to concentrate nutrition into the food they do eat…
And as long as I am doing that, I expect to branch out into ideas from and for those who don’t live with their loved ones, but need to handle this from a block, a town, a state, even a continent away. (Since that is not my experience, I’ll be interested to hear what others need, and what solutions they have found!)
Caregiving From my Kitchen.
And here, for a change –
What They Eat
The parents have been very happy to have me cook, especially dinner, and have been flexible about eating most of what I have cooked for dinner. But they are set in their ways for breakfast and lunch, which I have had to prepare to their precise instructions. In the six months that I have been here, I have been able to gradually introduce some very slight changes – but only when they accept that there is good reason!
They will tell you that they have cold cereal for breakfast – which sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But Don, the morning person in the household, had fixed breakfast for years, and I believe a career as an editor convinced him that anything can be improved with a little more work.
So cereal with some fruit and nuts sort of… expanded…
First of all, we have two kinds of fruit. They split a banana – well, these days they share it with Rich, also – and add some blueberries. Originally we had to have those specific fruits, but recently I’ve been able to substitute a local peach for the banana. Blueberries are local and wonderful, at this time of year, but who knows – maybe we’ll break out into blackberries!
Then there are walnuts, and sunflower seeds, and flax seeds. Once I have a bowl half full of fruit, nuts, and seeds, I add Cheerios. And then both yogurt and buttermilk. This is their heartiest meal of the day, for which they have the greatest appetite, so I take advantage of that and mix a little whey protein powder into the buttermilk, one scoop between the two.
And they have their coffee after breakfast, with one each of the tiniest little cookies you have ever seen – apparently one cannot simply drink coffee without the “and…”
At lunch they have one of a careful rotation of meals. Perhaps a sandwich of cold cuts or smoked salmon with cream cheese, perhaps an apple with peanut butter, or cheese and fruit… Well, we haven’t found what we New Yorkers consider a Real Bagel down here, but they have some trouble with them now, anyway… so “bagel thins” stand in, and more often, now, I give her an open sandwich on rye bread. A nice thick slice of fresh tomato – that came from the farmer’s market – helps moisten the sandwich, as dry food can be difficult to swallow. He adds a cup of soup, they each have a few tortilla chips (he wants them with the soup, she wants them because he has them, hey, they’re whole grain…)
Yes, that is regular gluten bread. Cookies are wheat, too. I wash my hands a lot… and handle everything very carefully.
Again, coffee follows the meal – perhaps with small biscotti, perhaps with a slice of banana bread (and I need to develop a few more tea breads for them – they really enjoy it! And I can pack a little more nutrition into them – their lunches tend to be light.)
And they do drink a nutritional supplement – on medical advice – in late afternoon.
Finally, we all eat together!
Dinner changed more for them, less for us, than any other meal. They had eaten and enjoyed my cooking during the year we got their house in New York ready for the move South… and I had both cooked for them and filled a freezer with food when I visited. I had not anticipated changing what I cooked much, if any, at all.
I realized though, that we had questions of appetite. I had learned that Barbara ate more when I served a sauce, and found it easier to deal with bite sized pieces, instead of having to cut things up. A visit from a therapist established that the food was simply easier for her to swallow. (And that this is a common issue with the elderly. I do not mean full dysphagia – which requires a medical diet – just that some things are a little more difficult than they were.) I also found that they enjoyed spicy food – that is about flavor and appetite! Between all the factors, I find curries (of all nationalities) and enchiladas (very American, on my table, so far, at least) to be big hits.
So dinner this night was a quickie Thai red curry (your basic red curry paste in coconut milk, with chicken, onion, and zucchini. I find it goes over better for some reason if I serve the sauce separately, so the food cooked in it is strained out and the sauce is in a sauceboat. Then – well, they’re not as fond of rice as we are… and between one thing and another I found myself serving Thai curry with grits. (I’ve become a total fan of grits now that I can get good ones… And the parents enjoy them, too.) OK, non-traditional, but it worked…
They always want a tossed salad, with several kinds of greens, and several kinds of vegetables, served after the main course. We usually use an oil and vinegar dressing, from cruets, and serve water with the meal, from the pitcher on the table. The other three also drink just a taste of wine or beer – one bottle of beer for all three!
After dinner, Barbara and I retreat to the sunroom (with Jirra who apparently understands that the Ladies withdraw) where we may watch TV or cute cats and dogs on Instagram while Rich and Don start the cleanup. Barbara is getting the hang of Instagram! I’m so proud… The men join us with ice cream… also an immutable part of the meal. No other dessert will do. (Though since I don’t eat ice cream, and they feel I’m being cheated, it’s OK if I sometimes eat fruit…)
And that is now the framework of my day.
I now wrap up the What I Ate Wednesday posts. Surely 200 is a nice round number to end on! My time is tighter, I have posts to point people towards, and this just does not fit my life any more. I will miss doing it, though – and I will still pop in to see the other bloggers I have been following, and I hope you will, too.
I’m not completely rebranding. The cooking ahead for emergency meals I’ve done before is even more important now that I’m feeding them as well. (And that may help other caregivers.) I still find myself cooking through some migraines (and turning the meal over to Rich when I cannot) and I still need to strictly avoid gluten (though I now have the complications of a mixed kitchen.) But the emphasis will change…
I’m developing the concept as I go along – tell me what you or your family need, and I’ll see if I can think of answers! (Sometimes it is easier to solve another person’s issue…) I know people caring for parents, as we are, but also spouses, and grandparents, and adult children with disabilities – many different variations, but we all still have to eat.
That may be my mantra – We all still have to eat.