Family Food Faves (shhh… there’s NO CHEESE!)
It has to be said that one of the more pleasurable perks of caring for older adults in their own homes is the wonderful foody treats I am often introduced to. Thankfully, not at every house I go to – but definitely more often than the top button of my work pants cares to admit!
What! Are you calling me FAT?
Seriously though, there’s nothing like sitting down at the end of a long, arduous shift with a grateful client who insists on sharing a cuppa, a nice chat about life… AND A WHOPPING GREAT SLAB OF THEIR FRESHLY BAKED SPONGE CAKE!
Because if there’s one thing these dear ageing ladies know – it’s how to COOK.
Let’s face it, and yes clearly I’m generalising BIG time… but they have after all, spent a lifetime literally feeding people. Preparing grand family feasts for an eternity of Christmases, birthdays and engagement parties; churning out countless baked goodies for school fetes, charity fundraisers, church picnics and sports club bashes or just whenever the cause called for it. Nobody told them they had to – that’s just the way it was being a woman, wife and mother back in the day.
And so that’s what they did.
Which is why, when I get offered a special something from my beloved client’s cake tin, I know it’s gonna be good! Then, after I’ve marvelled at how delicious it is and how clever they are, there is a very good chance I’ll then be entrusted with the RECIPE for this tried-and-true family favourite to have as my very own.
Also, as another angle (and brilliant as a conversation starter), I might ask my client for their views on the best way to bake a leg of lamb without it shrivelling up to nothing, or hints on how to stop spaghetti pasta from clumping together in the pot (me, every damn time). Then… if you’re sincere and show that you truly rooly respect these culinary Dames and their nifty cooking tricks, you’ll find a proud as punch client who’d share just about anything with you.
Take note, that if you’re offered the secret recipe for a traditional masterpiece dish – you’ve struck GOLD! Sometimes too, they may even write them out by hand for you – all from memory of course.
By this caring and sharing stage, you can rest assured that you’ve earned your client’s confidence completely (which is HUGE) and pretty much means that your worthiness as their carer is a done deal. And if that’s not job satisfaction, I don’t know what is?
In fact over the years, and seeing that we are such a multi-cultural bunch… I feel like I’ve travelled the globe thanks to some of the sacred scrummy recipes I’ve been endeared with.
Some tasty examples:
- Mrs Petrie’s Vanilla Bean Custard – made with REAL custard and REAL bean “none of this packet rubbish!”
- Mrs Maradona’s Mama Mia Meatballs with traditional spicy Napoli Sauce… passed-down-from-6-generations of Mamas!
- Mrs Tippy’s Never-fail Date Scones… and they never do, not even when I make em!
- Mrs Bun’s original Choc Chip Cookies…secret ingredient: butter, Butter, BUTTER!
- Mrs Formosa’s Pumpkin & Chickpea ‘Curry-in-a-Hurry’... because guess where you’ll be running afterwards!
- Mrs DiDonato’s famously rich Osso Bucco… for compliments AND heartburn, guaranteed!
Trouble is, these wondrous apron-clad matriarchs eventually become worn-out elderly ladies and sadly, the art of cooking regresses into HARD WORK. Which was the predicament that my 88 year old client, Mrs Madeleine Chadwick found herself in recently.
For it is written, that Madeline Chadwick can make a CHEESECAKE better than anyone else in the cheesecake universe. Her family know it, the neighbours know it, the bowls club know it and now, happily, I can testify to it too. Melt in your mouth TO DIE FOR kind of cheesecake. And every fortnight when her extended family all gather for a meal at her table, Maddie gets to wheel out her latest dessert creation and have them all coo with delight at another splendid pud from good ol’ reliable Nan-Nan.
Problem is, and unbeknownst to her loving fam, Maddie can cope with long stints in the kitchen, no longer. Yes, they know Mum has health issues: swollen fluid-retentive ankles, a recently diagnosed heart condition, perilously high blood pressure, osteoarthritis galore and now irreversible glaucoma has consumed her eyesight to a stage where surgery is not an option. Maddie, however, has opted to keep hidden the true extent of her deterioration in order to preserve the precious mealtime ritual she holds so dear.
So, rather than make a fuss and risk disrupting an important family custom… Maddie confided in me that she has instead resorted to cheating! Thanks to a session with the girls at her ‘Stitch n Bitch’ knitting group, Maddie was able to swap her usual legendary but painfully long-winded cheesecake recipe for another which her friend Wilma discovered on the ‘interweb’.
So! Where once the production of her signature dish meant hours of beavering away for an entire morning, as well as depleting her energy stocks for the rest of the week – it now only took Maddie four minutes!
“Plus extra fiddling-about time, of course”, Maddie confessed to me.
And so the show can go on! Her family are none the wiser; in fact she tells me they all squeal how they just LOVE the new extra creaminess and texture. And please, Mum…can I have some more?
“Oh, I’m just trying a few different flavours”, says Maddie with a cheeky glint in her eye, when they make inquiries.
And not a dot of cheese to be seen! Wilma from the knitting club promised Maddie that no one would ever notice – because the yoghurt imparts a sneaky cheese flavour once it had been zapped on high in the microwave. Good ol’ Wilma – she was right!
It doesn’t sound like a big deal in the grand scale of things, but I’m so pleased to see, even if it may not be forever… how happy and proud Maddie Chadwick is knowing she gets to continue the precious cheesecake tradition for a little longer with her adoring family.
And I myself, will be able to confirm how easy-peasy it is too, after I attempt one for my lot tonight (Fingers crossed… and toes…and arms… and …)
“Make sure you use full-fat yoghurt though, Dollie. And using Anzac biscuits is a nice touch for the base. Melt some butter into them once they’re crushed up – that’ll stop your bottom from going all dry and falling apart.”
Oh, indeedy yes… the last thing any of us need is a dried-up, crumbly bottom.