Sunday, July 08, 2012

caring and the culinary arts

We once dined in restaurants like any other couple. We once did a lot of things before Multiple Sclerosis began stealing Patti’s abilities.

That was decades ago, this is now. Patti primarily eats or more accurately is fed at her care facility.

It’s no longer about fine dining it’s about safety as trained feeding assistants help Patti through meals in assisted dinning. The kitchen also stacks the deck preparing easier to swallow meals including mincing entries.

Progression of MS symptoms not only confounds her ability to chew and swallow (dysphagia) but see her food (visual impairment). Her failing ability to control her hands and arms makes getting food to her mouth with utensils an exercise in futility.  

While their teamwork is extraordinary, it seems to me that every once in a while texture diets and feeding guidelines can use some one man showmanship in the kitchen. Interestingly the care facility era ever challenges me to become better.

So I found myself inspired on the hottest day of the year to create a summer finger food entree specifically for Patti to try and enjoy at home. One handed finger food I should say, only her right arm works.
finger food bowl of grilled boneless chicken breast cut into squares with cut up peaches, grapes, and blackberries

Why not grilled boneless chicken breast with a bowl of cut up fresh peaches, blackberries, and white grapes? My thinking was the mixture of berries and fresh fruit would provide an array of textures and shapes to stimulate her sense of touch over failing vision. The kaleidoscope of flavors I hoped would keep refreshing her cognition and attention. To prevent the chicken from seeming bland in contrast but not dominating as in BBQ, I grilled with a citrus stir-fried sauce (orange, pineapple, and grape) before briefly chilling and cutting up into bite sized squares.

The secret ingredient is verbal cueing … if you were nearby you would have heard “bite” … “chew” … “swallow” … interspersed with “now here take a sip of your drink to wash it down”. Verbally cueing Patti as she eats I sound more like a coxswain coordinating rowers as a rowing shell knifes through the water.

“Bangin’!” reported Patti as she safely finished her self-fed, one-armed, finger-food dinner bowl.

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick Leer 


  1. That does look delicious Patrick. I commend you on your creative thinking and cooking to come up with something that was "user" friendly for Patti and also something that probably tasted very good!! I like how you grilled the chicken too!


    1. Thanks Betty! Back before MS, actually I was the chef between the two of us. When I had the time I enjoyed creating and cooking.

  2. Your dish sounds delicious! Not that there's a comparison, but when I feed my mother at her nursing home (all pureed foods,) I'm always saying "Stay awake." "Open your mouth." "Swallow." Since many of the patients are in the same condition, my commands don't sound so out of place.

    1. Thanks Muffie and certainly inevitable for Patti with progression of related symptoms. And as I mentioned while staff is great they feed what is best practice and procedure ... minced and pureed are not more than a button off on the food processor. :) Only at home and only with my vigilance and cueing can we stall and try dishes like this.

  3. That looks really good, especially if you have swallowing issues and if it's HOT.

  4. It looks like it tasted good besides the way you thought of Patti


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