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Fading food fads

Just occasionally Ms Alzheimer’s presents me with a little bonus – something that’s actually quite useful as opposed to destructive.

It’s reasonably well documented that changing taste in food is a fairly common Alzheimer’s symptom. And My Loved One is definitely an example of that. Quite an extreme one in fact.

I married the fussiest, faddiest eater on the planet. (I blame his mother, naturally). He wouldn’t eat tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, cooked cheese, mayonnaise anything with a sauce on it, casseroles and about a million other things.

And I mean wouldn’t eat. Being invited out was a nightmarish embarrassment. I really don’t like pears but if a pear dish is put in front of me in someone’s house – and it has happened –  of course I eat it out of politeness. Not MLO.  If he was served something on his lengthy “don’t eat” list well then he just wouldn’t. End of. And when we both became vegetarian in the late 1970s in some ways it was even worse because when people obligingly, kindly try to cater for you they tend to dish up all the things MLO refused to countenance. He was effectively a vegetarian who wouldn’t eat (most) vegetables and you really can’t expect people to work round that. I seemed always to be apologising for him.

At home I had decades of making quiches with cheese on one side only, mincing onion and mushroom to make it invisible, always doing stir fries in separate pans, lying about the provenance of redness in dishes  and getting annoyed with him in restaurants when he said loftily: “There’s nothing on this menu I can eat” even when there were three or four veggie options.

Then, about ten years ago it all began to change. He realised he liked leeks, beetroot, parsnips and lots of other previously rejected things. He even started to eat macaroni cheese and lasagne with their dependence on lots of lovely cheese sauce.  Most odd of all, a life long tea hater, he’s decided that green tea is OK so we now routinely share a pot at breakfast time which still seems hilarious given how he used to be. With hindsight I suppose that those changes were early Alzheimer’s indicators although at the time I just marvelled and rejoiced gratefully.

Today I rough chop onions in the normal way and they go in casseroles and other dishes along with dried tomatoes, tomato puree and anything else I fancy adding. He’s just chomps away at the result, usually has a second helping and says he’s enjoyed it. For a long time I said nothing because half the battle has always been keeping the truth about ingredients from him.

Then I stopped pretending. Instead I just tease him, saying: “It’s taken me nearly 50 years but you’ve become a normal eater. There really isn’t much you won’t eat now. What a pity it took you so long!” He grins back “Just don’t give me cauliflower!”. Little does he know that I quite often chop up the loathed brassica  and sneak it into burgers, pies and other things.

Last week when I was heading out on one of my frequent evening review jobs I fried some onion and red pepper in a frying pan with some tofu, then added a pot of red (tomato) pesto. All he had to do was heat it through and eat it with pitta bread.

When I got home MLO said: “Well I don’t know what that sauce was but it was absolutely delicious”. Gotcha!  Thanks, Ms A. It’s very rarely that I’m grateful to you so you’d better make the most of it.





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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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