Wednesday, November 19, 2014


The time passes fairly quickly when you don't have work weeks to break up the months.  Staying home to care for Dad is a job, mind you.  One I'd really rather not have.  But there it is.  It's an obligation and one I am honoring. 

Daily things have a tendency to change when you deal with someone in the household that has limitations.  At this stage in Dad's Alzheimer's condition we're learning to deal with bathroom challenges and sleeping schedule challenges (as in I'm trying to sleep while he wanders the house all night). 

So anyway, here we are well into November and our third year of this journey.  There are not many fun things to deal with when it comes to aging parents and one that may be more universal than we think is the loss of their taste and the loss of their teeth.  Dad began loosing his teeth a couple years ago.  Since both parents had already deteriorated far more than I was aware before they came to live with me, personal hygiene habits had long gone to the wayside.  And really, when you're dealing with a stubborn old man, new habits aren't likely to be initiated anytime soon, such as brushing teeth.  I've tried, he just won't submit.   

I'm taking a wild stab at the fact that Dad probably has not been to visit a dentist in well over 40 years.  Like medical doctors, he didn't trust them and didn't have the desire to submit to their ministrations.  Consequently, at this stage of life his teeth are on the MIA list.

What does that mean for the caregiver and meal maker (namely, me)?  It means no solid foods.  No bread crusts, no chewy meat, no crunchy fish, no lumpy soups.  As the teeth vanish, so does the ability to handle most foods that were everyday fare. 

To top it off, Dad no longer will eat meat in any form, with the single exception of the occasional piece of soft white fish prepared so that it falls apart when touched.  Or anything green.  So that means no peas, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, whatever.  If it's green, it's suspect. 

This also means that our meals are separate.  He eats mashed potatoes and squash loaded with cream and butter so that he gets his calorie intake and I have to create another meal for me.  We're well into six months with this and I'm only JUST figuring it out.

One thing we share is a good bowl of soup for lunch.  I have been searching the cookbooks and internet for good, hearty pureed soups that we can eat together and have come across some very good ones.

Case in point is this lovely Curried Butternut Squash soup I found created by my good friends at King Arthur Flour.  Initially found in a Bakers Sheet paired with a crusty roll recipe, I've made this soup a couple of times this fall and it's a hit with Dad and me.  Luckily, Dad liked squash all his life and he's still eating it like crazy today.  I serve all kinds mashed up with spices, butter and brown sugar and he eats it like there's no tomorrow.  It's good for him, so I feel no guilt about the addition of those fattening things.

This is a simple soup, not a lot of complex flavors to mask the delicate squash and it allows the curry to shine through.  Also, this soup freezes well.  This makes about six servings, so I feed us one day and freeze the rest for two more servings later in the month.  When you eat soup seven days a week, being able to pull out a serving at a time from the freezer is a blessing. 

Butternut Squash preparing to
become lovely soup!

From the King Arthur Flour Baking Sheet, Winter 2013

2 Tbls. butter
1 cup diced white onion
1 ½ pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch dice
6 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. prepared curry powder*, divided
½ cup cream

Heat the butter in a large stockpot over medium low heat until it melts. 

Stir in the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 7 minutes.  Add half of the curry powder now and allow the spice to bloom in the butter for a minute or two.

Add the cubed squash and stock and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the squash is tender and can be easily pierced with a fork. 
Puree the soup in batches** until smooth. Put the pureed soup back in the pot.  Stir in the curry powder and adjust salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Take soup off heat and stir in the cream.  Serve.

* While the original recipe calls for curry powder, feel free to try including other spices.  I happen to have a fantastic curry spice blend called Salaam Bombay that I got from a local herb and spice purveyor (available on-line here).  It's fabulous in this soup.

*You can use an immersion blender for this, and normally, if it was just for me, that's what I'd do so that I could leave some texture to the soup.  However, Dad needs it to be pureed smooth so I use my blender.  Be careful not to overload a blender with hot liquid as it expands and will explode out the top.  Fill container about 1/4 full, open a valve on the lid and cover with a towel while blending.  This allows the soup to expand without danger.

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