If you have read my blog, you know that I am a chopped fanatic. Just about every episode I learn something new and exciting about food. I also learn a spiritual lesson in the process. The last few weeks have been a challenge in our kitchen and in my own way, I feel as if I have been on the chemo-care version of Chopped. I have not been given a basket of mystery ingredients from which I have to create an appetizer, entrée, and desert. Rather, Zoë’s taste buds are on a temporary vacation. It started a few weeks ago when most things started tasting like cardboard, and then I discovered the amazing ability of salt to take things from cardboard to palatable. I though I had it all worked out and could figure out how to create things that would make her enjoy eating again and not want to send the food back to the kitchen because it tastes like cardboard.
The challenge the last week or so has not only been to create foods that do not taste like cardboard, but are also high in protein, high in calorie, diabetic friendly, high in fiber, and soothing on the mouth and throat. The chemo is now causing her to have a few places in her mouth that are sore and she has been fatigued because I have not been able to get enough protein in her that tastes like anything she would want to eat. Beans, tempeh, and tofu, which were once on her please cook list, are off. So to help with the fatigue, I have been trying to find other high protein foods that might appeal to her palette. The high protein foods that taste good now are ice cream and scrambled eggs. Go figure.
The other day, she went to run an errand and stopped on the way home for a cheeseburger, which tasted ok. Although, the French fries tasted like cardboard. So she has decided that while she is going through the chemo, she is going to start eating meat again. So now, after five years of not eating meat products, I am having to dust off my meat cooking skills and create dishes that might appeal to her ever changing palette. I was successful on thanksgiving with my honey and herb brined roast turkey. Both Zoë and our guests said it was succulent, moist, and flavorful. I saw her eat more yesterday then I have in a while and that made me feel so good.
One of the things I have learned is how I look for the enjoyment on people’s faces. Something happens inside me when I know people are enjoying the food I have created with the guidance of the Infinite. When I see her not enjoying something, there is this feeling in my spirit as if I am going to hear those dreaded words - you have been chopped. I know that is about me. Her palette not being able to taste anything right now is about her. My feeling less then adequate for not being able to rise to the challenge of cooking for her ever-changing palette is about me.
To keep me from being chopped, I have added a few ingredients to my go to basket and so far, they seem to be working. One is the tortilla, preferably corn ones as flour ones are thicker. The tortilla has become the new bread in our house. I can get it crunchy enough for her, but it is thin enough that there is as little “bread” as possible; this translates to as little cardboard as possible.
Another is agave nectar. It has become my best friend in the kitchen. It is great for controlling her blood sugar levels. Because it is diabetes friendly, I can use it in amounts that far surpass what the recipes call for. For example, the other day I made her a triple berry smoothie and the recipe called for 1 tablespoon of agave nectar. I would up adding about ½ cup to the smoothie so she could taste the sweetness.
Cheese is another friend. It is high in protein and high in calories. So last night, she enjoyed my five cheese macaroni and cheese or as my friends say cheese and macaroni. I think it is the salt from the cheese keeps it from tasting like cardboard. The healthy part of this was that I made it with whole-wheat pasta. So it actually turned out being high protein, high calorie, and high fiber.
I thought that buying a few cancer friendly cookbooks would be helpful. While they gave me some good ideas, what I have learned is to listen to her palette on any given day, to listen to my spirit, and to know that like God, everything I am creating right now is a work in process. I might think it is good at that moment, but the next day will be a new challenge with new lessons about what needs to be created on that day.
My hope is that I can make it through the next 9 weeks of chemo and 7 weeks of radiation without having a meal where her palette says, you have been chopped.