Posted in Aged Care, cooking

Mrs Chadwick's Cheating Cheesecake

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.

Are we having fun yet?

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 Saucepassed-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!
Go on, get it in ya!

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’.

Here ’tis:

No Muss – No Fuss!

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.

Family feasting…. do we still smile like this?

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers,
Dollie
Posted in Aged Care, cooking, Working with Elderly

When Old Folk Learn New Food

Pommy-granitt! What’s THAT when it’s at home?

I’ve been having some interesting discussions with my clients lately and it’s all about one of my fave topics – FOOD.

In particular, are the seniors who’ve realised it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the presence of all the bizarre sounding grains or oddly-shaped fruit ‘n’ veg on trend and brazenly on display at the supermarkets nowadays.  

Oh, I see them… with elbows leaned furtively on shopping carts they drift nonchalantly down the aisle, the majority with little idea what these new species are, what they DO… nor how to even peel one. Suffice to say, there’s little chance they’ll be cooking with one of these natural wonders any time soon.

But that’s not to say they can’t!  

Most recent of the veg-du-jour would be Kale, Pomegranate, Avocado (ie: the smashing of) and the phenomena known as Quinoa (no, Mrs Smith, it’s pronounced “keen-wah”) which seem to be causing the most angst among my sceptical over-80’s mob. 

Pomegranate earrings?
– wardrobe essential

Advised by their GPs or concerned family members (and splashed all over the lifestyle mags)… that these peculiar so-called ‘Superfoods’ are packed full of disease-fighting goodies. And that by consuming these wondrous beauties, seniors can decrease the probability of developing chronic illness, rehabilitate faster if they do, and subsequently, increase their chances of living much longer good quality lives.  

WIN-WIN-WIN!

Which got me thinking that not only is it Technology that an older adult is pressured to install, understand and hopefully utilise in today’s frantically progressive world…

… it’s also about what we EAT.

Having grown up in arguably more frugal times (where food just wasn’t permitted to be the obsession that it is now), it’s understandable why the mature-ager might find some of the latest meal trends confusing and intimidating. People are living for longer that’s true, but it’s a scientific fact that age-related health issues such as diabetes, stroke or heart disease (conditions that would have once knocked you off in your 60’s) are now being managed more efficiently, purely by what we stick in our mouths.

Unfortunately along the way… food over-sensitivity, allergies and intolerances have also become commonplace and it’s been a huge learning curve for many ‘old-school’ folk to not only embrace the modern ideals toward the food they eat, but to accept that their own health may be in jeopardy if they don’t.

Noticeable, too, are the strange codes added to the selections on the menus of our favourite restaurants. Shown as GF, LF or V for example, these nifty symbols offer the diner-outer all sorts of solutions to their dickey dietary dilemmas. Although this may baffle some who might feel it’s easier to trust the Gods, close their eyes and just order a Vine-Ripened Pachino Tomato, Roasted Bell Capsicum & Basil Pesto Linguini with Pine Nuts & lightly-fried Zucchini flower, and a Caprese Quinoa & Almond Salad on the side… rather than risk looking a fool by enquiring about it first.  

No such thing as a Nut Allergy when we were kids. Oh, except when I first met my Douggie at the school dance – he was NUTTY alright!”

How can being a Vegetarian be good for you? Eating too many greens… GIVES ME THE SQUIRTS!”

Special Dietary Requirement? That’s me making sure I have a wine with dinner!”

Not sure about this ‘organic food’ thing… in my day, it was just called FOOD”

Gluten-free, you say. So, I have to eat less glutes?!?!”

Not to mention all the latest cookbooks encouraging us to replace the tried-and-true ingredients of our classic recipes with slinkier, nutrient-laden alternatives. Gone are the days where a lump of meat (“whatever’s on special, dear”) is bunged into the oven in a layer of lard with a wheelbarrow-load of salt tipped over it to enhance flavour! 

Instead, poor old Mum, has had to haul herself out of her lifelong culinary comfort zone to produce such delights as a zucchini & feta fritter, organic eggplant fries and get her head around long lanky limbs of broccolini… steamed for 23 seconds (no-more, no less) for her son’s pretty, but pedantic Vegan yoga-instructor fiancee.

The Art of Murdering BROCCOLI

No longer can she happily enjoy the sumptuous spitting of lamb chops as they fry mercilessly on the stove top as she did in ye olden days either. Ah no!  They must be eased gently under the grill and then delicately dabbed at repeatedly with a roll of triple-ply paper towels to ensure every last dot of oil has been safely extracted.

BECAUSE, OH GOD, WE CAN’T GET FAT!

She then has to skill-up on the magic of the ‘shop and chop’ – buying, and then dicing great sprigfuls of fresh herbs, fancy-schmancy spices for wholesome homemade marinades (no additives, PLEASE!) in the quest to present modern adaptations of traditional feasts to her fussy grown-up family.  

Which can be bloody hard work when Mama has a dicky knee, arthritic hands and poor eyesight!

But, as a carer on the go, I do find it exciting and hugely inspiring when some of my tentative, yet respectfully brave clients at least give it a go. Seizing this new ‘foodie’ adventure by it’s edible entrails and taking an active interest in managing their own health with all the exotic, albeit daunting-looking food choices they can now make.  

And even more impressively – is the trendy COOKING techniques they’ve learnt to whip it all together!

One of my clients, for example, 90 year old Bert Walloven is the most gorgeous man who nearly fell to bits living on just boiled eggs, fish paste & water-crackers, after his wife died last year. However, he pulled himself up by his apron strings and found new vigour in teaching himself how to bake Banana Loaf in a posh bread-maker appliance he found at the back of ‘the wife’s’ pantry. 

Every Tuesday afternoon when I visit Bert now, he insists I make time before I leave, for a compulsory taste-test of a slice of his latest creation. Ahh yes, any excuse for a cuppa and a chat! None of your plain boring stodge either – last week it was Pumpkin Bread with honey oat and cranberry chunks. 

Delish!

Bake it up, Bert!

Interesting to note, I find the biggest motivator for my elders to climb aboard the Superfood train by including more fresh ingredients in their diet, is the possibility that it might lessen the chances of them developing Alzheimer’s disease.  Whether that’s true or only slightly true-ish (and it can’t hurt)… it seems many seniors, terrified of losing brain function, will go to great lengths to prevent this from happening and do whatever it takes to maintain the health of their minds.

Indeed, it turns out that you CAN teach a dog of more advanced years new tricks! It merely depends on whether the old Golden Retriever in question is willing (and open-minded enough), to give the tricks a go!

We all feel nervous when it comes to trying new things – of course we do! A fear of failure, feeling unsafe and exposed, or the big one… looking silly or inept in front of others. And with this traditionalist Boomer generation, it’s understandable why they might stubbornly opt to stay with the mindset that they’ve already made it through the obstacles of life; they’ve come through ‘the War’ living on sausage meat and sawdust. They’ve acquired all the learning needed for survival so “there’s nothing more I need to know, thank you very much!”  

A perspective that sadly means the ability to grow (and thrive) by learning new ‘tricks’ and being empowered from new lifestyle choices which might just allow people to not only live longer, but live BETTER… gets lost in the despair and gloominess of  ‘being old’.

Which, thankfully, is NOT the case for Bert and his Breadmaster 2000!  Lovely Bert informs me his latest project is a Wholemeal Caramel, Apple & Quinoa Pecan Loaf. And “just for fun”, it’s also going to involve (winkity, wink)… A RUM SWIRL.

Oh yes, roll on next Tuesday!

Arrrrh, ’tis true, me Hearties

HAPPY CARING!

Cheers,
Dollie