“Give me some real food! If I don’t get a sandwich soon I’m going to be a goner,” my father-in-law, Rodger, demanded. Dysphagia had taken away his ability to swallow properly. He was frustrated and angry and taking it out on me. “I’m going to tell the doctor. You wait and see. I’m going to tell him you’re starving me to death.”
I assured him that talking to the doctor was the right thing to do if he felt he was not being treated right. By the next office visit he’d forgotten about the threat.
Despite feeling hurt by the accusation my heart went out to him. I had to find a way to create meals that would bring him some measure of enjoyment and maybe, in the process, ease his anger toward me.
For weeks I’d been preparing pureed food and thickened liquids. Neither one of which look very appetizing nor do they satisfy the urge to chew. I showed him that the mushy stuff he insisted wasn’t food was the same things he used to eat. I helped him mash the potatoes, prepare the vegetables, and put them in the food processor.
“This is real food,” he finally admitted. “But it’s not as good. I need the real, real food.”
I wanted to serve him roast chicken, a baked potato and fresh green beans with a slice of apple pie with ice cream for dessert. He should have been able to eat anything he wanted. But the danger was too great.
I got creative in what I prepared. I pureed cupcakes with whipped cream and cherry juice on top to satisfy his sweet tooth. I made chicken stew with all the standard ingredients and pureed it for him. The peas turned the stew green. It looked a bit odd but it tasted good. I thickened nutritional drinks with bananas and peanut butter and a bit of baby cereal to make milkshakes that didn’t melt in his mouth. He loved them. I cooked with flavor and nutrition in mind.