At first my mother was eating whatever everyone else was but her notoriously lazy digestive system, compounded now by having to while away life in bed, made a special diet imperative. I read recently that food is the most abused and exercise the least used of our options for a healthy life. Experience tells me how true this is.
Creating a diet meant for someone who was a wonderful cook herself but who had a rather indifferent approach to her own ingestion of food was quite a task. She had to have four meals or four times of eating and drinking something.
Breakfast was the obvious place to start….daliya, which I love lightly fried in ghee, then given one quick whistle in the pressure cooker, and eaten with milk and sugar was rejected outright. This was sad for me because there is something of her indifference to balanced food in me too and I wasn’t going to make it for myself if she didn’t want it. Muesli was OK by her but not everyday. Cornflakes, same. But Quaker Oats was just fine. Over the years it has come to be a staple, served with a mashed banana, milk and sugar. She never really liked egg/toast/bacon and suchlike. Occasionally, she doesn’t mind idli/dosa/sambhar but we reserve it for other meals because porridge is never totally and utterly refused.
For lunch it was a meal any middle class Indian family has. But Anglo Indians are meat curry and rice eaters. This was a dilemma at first but both she and my father took to eating vegetables, dal, chapatis, salad, and curds. Denis who thought that self-respecting vegetables were only potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cabbage or cauliflower would blanch at the sight of bhindi, turai, karela or baingan but he would try. Chicken was fine too and cooked often but Mummy for many many years had been eating vegetarian food so she liked this new stuff being served up. She did not like rice and anyway, white rice, the polished variety we all eat is useless compared to whole wheat chapatis. So that was lunch.
In the evenings she had milk with some Complan, a diet supplement added, and some cookies or cake.
And finally dinner was vegetable soup with a cheese sandwich, a pasta dish or just about anything because by this time of the daily routine plenty of vegetables had been added. Oh yes, dessert at both lunch and dinner included fruit and usually Icecream.
Oh I was so proud of myself because she not only had no problems, she ate well and put on a slight bit of weight and had a smoothly functioning digestive machinery. It was fine to relax this, not be totally inflexible about it because the regularity mattered but did not mean a few meals could not be different. Shepherds Pie, or brown stew, or Vindaloo sometimes.
Denis had taken to cooking after his retirement because Mummy retired from cooking, and did turn out perfectly Mummylike Anglo Indian stuff. He would eat brinjals only in the form of the sweet-sour vinegar based pickle and made it fabulously. But now he retired from cooking too because a lot of the everyday load of physical caring was shared by him. The two home help were NCs (non-combatant men who were assigned tasks like cooking and cleaning in the armed forces. The two assigned to work for him because of the fact that he retired as the Chief of the Indian Air Force were from the nearby village but being males, we did not get them to do any of the work for Mummy. They helped to prop her up while using the walker later, though and were always willing to do more). The NCs, both called Swami and therefore known by their initials became well known by the relatives, grandchildren, friends and visitors.
But my attempts to get them to learn how to make meals for Mummy really tip top was such a losing battle that it just meant my sisters and me going in relays there to see to the cooking. We still do the cooking for Mummy ourselves. Not for the sake of hygiene, or trust issues, but because we know her tastes and also because we know on a day to day basis what and how much she has consumed.