24 May 2012

(Not) tasting the difference

This moussaka tasted a lot better than it looks here. When I saw lamb mince at the supermarket this week, I suddenly remembered making this dish quite often years ago. So I thought I'd give it another go. It's time-consuming: first cooking the meat sauce, next sprinkling the sliced eggplant with salt and draining it for an hour (though some newer recipes say not to bother with this) followed by quickly grilling (i.e. broiling) the slices, then thickening a white sauce and adding grated cheese and egg – and finally assembling the lot and baking for an hour.

Lately Allen and I have been eating very simple meals. Several times a week, I don't even cook but just grab something like a frozen chicken pie, baked beans or even porridge with trimmings on colder evenings. Allen seems unconcerned as long as there's something on his plate around tea-time. Though he used to enjoy good food as much as I do, now he just doesn't seem to care what he eats. And certain textures give him trouble (e.g. some cuts of meat, stringy vegetables like spinach). So easily managed foods hold more appeal than tasty dishes that are a challenge to handle or chew. Where he once appreciated and welcomed new flavours and spicy foods, now I have to give him much blander meals and add any interesting flavours to my portion only (anything hot, anything spicy etc.) The result is that I'm losing interest in cooking.

Allen couldn't remember ever eating moussaka, but he ate this whole portion. I had to cut up the slightly crusty top, as he's forgotten that knives are best used for cutting, not for pulling things apart with. I couldn't blame him too much for that, though, because my super-efficient oven does crisp up things a bit more than should happen at this temperature. However, the flavour, I thought, was exquisite: hints of nutmeg coming through the custardy topping and the eggplant and lamb such a wonderful combination. Allen's verdict, though, was less enthusiastic: "Different", was all he said when prompted for a reaction. And 'different' now is a polite way of saying 'can we not have it too often?' It's such a sad thing, this loss of good taste in food. Baked beans on toast would please him just as much, I'm sure. Maybe even more, as beans can easily be scooped up with a spoon. 

The gerontologist told me at Allen's annual check-up this year that the same part of the brain that governs speech also controls a good part of the chewing and swallowing functions. So whenever Allen has any health problems (a cold, his recent pneumonia etc.), we must immediately thicken all liquids as he's likely to ingest fluid into the lungs while trying to drink or eat. The swallowing and breathing functions are getting mixed up, it seems. I wonder if somehow this partly accounts for Allen's diminished interest in new and 'different' flavours. After all, if he's mainly concerned with 'Can I eat it OK?', he can't be too bothered about 'How does it taste?' Like so much else about this dreadful condition, the loss of good taste in food is a cruel blow.

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About me

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I started this blog in 2009 when I became a full-time caregiver. My husband had been diagnosed a few years earlier with primary progressive aphasia. Over the next four years until his death in 2013, we went on a journey of discovery about this rare condition. My blog is about what I learned, how we both coped and how the journey deepened our love and appreciation of each other. Allen’s journey is over, but mine goes on.