Sunday, November 13, 2011

“Food for Thought”

Saturday’s savory scents carry on the breeze. One neighbor, a chef at a Thai restaurant, fires up his grill and spices up the air. Our other neighbor, windows open to fall’s coolness, teases me with the fragrance of a baking cake. Sandwiched between the two homes, I raise my nose like a coon hound and sniff the scintillating aroma. My stomach rumbles in dissatisfaction, nagging me that baby carrots and tuna noodle casserole cannot compete with the tempting fragrance floating on the wind.
         “Why is it that other’s cooking always smells so wonderful?” I muse.
         I love cooking and baking. Once upon a time, friends and family looked forward to the holidays because of my homemade breads, thickly rich fudge, and nutty peanut brittle. My hollandaise sauce dribbled over Eggs Benedict has delighted many discerning palates on Christmas morning. I can bake any bird: chicken, turkey, duck, goose. My pie crusts flake, and my cakes rise.

         When I first retired, I revisited my favorite cookbooks and searched the web for new recipes. I kept a little record of dishes I cooked or baked with notations:  takes too long, substitute something else for mangos, simple and delicious. A star rating meant I’d make that recipe again, refine it to our taste if it needed any adjusting. I didn’t mind chopping, slicing, dicing and marinating if the end result meant discovering a wonderful new combination of spices for a delightful new taste.
         As my mother’s Huntington’s Disease progresses, I’ve noticed myself avoiding the kitchen. The more foods she cannot eat, the less I want to putter around the stove. I realized that I now do the old reliable dinners that I know won’t give her any trouble. I make huge batches of spaghetti and freeze individual servings for her. A Sunday pork roast gets divided into four tubs and popped into the freezer. She loves hamburger gravy on top of a baked potato, and can still manage meatloaf with our special baked beans. The other day after struggling with a minutely chopped chicken breast, Mom suggested I buy legs or thighs. She cannot eat the meat from the bone, so I haven’t purchased either one in a while. Tonight, though, we baked thighs with our own special sauce, deboned the meat, and watched as she ate everything effortlessly. The dark meat proved much easier for her to chew and swallow.
         As the holidays approach, I’ll look for something less traditional for our celebratory meals. The food I prepare won’t matter since the true joy comes from being together for another season. We may have a wide variety of side dishes that my mother can easily eat and enjoy. I do know that she’s still able to enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie loaded with vanilla ice cream. Maybe we’ll just have desserts!

 Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

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