Maudlin, Mawkish Or Honestly Sentimental? - Learning To Cook Blog at - 297389

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Maudlin, Mawkish Or Honestly Sentimental? 
Feb. 14, 2013 6:41 am 
Updated: Feb. 20, 2013 7:14 am
I'm sitting here eating my breakfast. Today I am having a serving of Quaker Steel Cut Oats and a cup of coffee. I wish I had the discipline to have oatmeal every morning, but 25 minutes for a bowl of porridge is a lot of time spent. I usually just have coffee and then snack for the first half of the day. Alternatively, I might eat dinner leftovers if they were particularly good the first time around. There is a portion of Shrimp in Garlic Butter over Cheesy Polenta in the refrigerator. Oatmeal sounded better this morning.
Funny thing about that decision is that I used to hate oatmeal. My mother would occasionally make oatmeal and force me to eat it. It was like tasteless, lumpy paste. And it was usually cold by the time she served it. Mom was a really good baker, and she could cook a very few things well. Overall, she was a terrible cook. Broccoli was always cooked to olive drab mush. In fact every vegetable ever served was cooked into submission. Most meats were not well done, they were more likely to be incinerated. I think she used to be a good cook too. But she lost heart. Somewhere along the road of life she gave up. She stopped baking and she usually resorted to TV Dinners, then when Hamburger Helper came out, she added that to her menu plan. She also made a truly horrible dish with instant rice, condensed mushroom soup and cubed spam. The horror. I learned to cook because she decided to not cook anymore.
I hope you don't think I am dishonoring my mother. It just is what it is.   I love my mom. She was always there for me. I think she always tried her best to encourage me, and set a good example where she could. Isn't that all a person can do? My mom is still kicking after 90 years on this planet. She has some form of dementia, but she has not been actually diagnosed. The doctors felt that it wasn't really necessary to pin it down. She lives in a care center now because she is too weak to take care of herself, and her mind would not allow her to care for herself even if her body was strong. I guess she is in that care center because I am too weak to take care of her too.
She lives in Minneapolis and I was able to see her the other day when I flew in to meet my wife and then fly on to the city in which we will soon be living. It's about 3 hours from Minneapolis, which means that I'll be able to see mom regularly instead of occasionally. When I walked into her room she was holding a teddy bear as though it were a child, and she was crying over it. She looked up when I came in and brightened up a little bit, but told me she was so worried about her "puppy."  She thought that the staff was torturing her "puppy" by stuffing it's mouth with something so that she couldn't feed it. On her dresser were pictures of her grandkids. It was like a shrine. Each photo had offerings of candy, peanuts and muffins. "I love those girls to pieces! But they make me so mad. They won't eat. But I love them. They talk to me all the time, but they just won't eat!" She has rather long, happy conversations with the grandkids according to the staff. She loves on them, encourages them and gives them advice about their daily problems. Although it breaks my heart to see her like this, I think that it is also a blessing. She is happy and safe. She isn't trying to escape from the care center, and she isn't resentful that she is there.
It's a blessing too that mom still recognizes me. She does get confused occasionally and introduces me as her brother, but usually that is just difficulty in dredging up the right word. Every once in a while it really is a recognition issue where she attaches memories to me that were of her little brother. She also recognizes my girls and wife when they come in for a visit. Though she does get very confused seeing both my girls and their photos in the same room. It's as though she isn't quite sure which of them is the real one.
We don't get a choice in what happens to us in old age. Some might argue that we do, and I won't place myself in the judgment seat over them. I think that it is important that we realize that what happens to us isn't always about us. Often what happens to us is a lesson for someone else, and how we handle the event is part of the lesson. Is that a reason to linger? For me, yes, it is. When it comes time for mom to be with the Lord, she will go. She wanted no drastic measures taken to revive her. I feel the same way about my life. Right now, I will fight tooth and nail to stay alive for my family. If the day comes where I can no longer share wisdom, or be articulate, then if my body gives out, I don't want to be revived at all costs either. Let me see the face of my Lord.
Isn't it interesting what memories and feelings boil to the surface as we eat breakfast? I believe that you deserve something for sitting through my blathering. The oatmeal I made today was excellent, and here's how you do it:
1/2 cup milk or half and half
1 cup water
1/4 cup steel cut oats
1 Tbs maple syrup
1 Tbs brown sugar
In a saucepan bring the milk and water to the boil. Reduce heat to low and add the oats, stirring them in well. Cover the saucepan, but beware of boil overs until the pan has come down to a low temperature.
Simmer the oats for about 20 - 25 minutes. Stir frequently as the oats will burn to the bottom of the pan. Add the maple syrup and the sugar when the oats have absorbed most of the moisture in the pan.
If you like, and I do, add raisins, dried cranberries, or a combination of dried fruits. You can add a bit of salt if you need to.
As the milk cooks down it becomes thicker, sweeter and creamier. I never used to like oatmeal, but now it's a great treat.
Feb. 14, 2013 8:12 am
Watching our parents age is so difficult. Medicine and science have helped increase our longevity but it isn't always so wonderful if the quality of life isn't very good......Have you ever made your steel cut oats in one big batch and portioned out servings to eat for a few days? I do that on occasion or I just use rolled oats and cook them in the microwave. I do love oatmeal too.
Feb. 14, 2013 8:37 am
I do agree with you about longevity and how quality of life can suffer from that. Still, my mom is still there. Most often she is herself, though a bit, or even a lot, confused. She still loves and laughs, and that is a good thing. As far as making extra oatmeal, I hadn't thought of that. One of the things I like about steel cut oats is the firmer texture. I wonder if it would stay firm or get mushy? There's only one way to find out! Thanks for the suggestion! I was thinking about trying to make baked oatmeal. I found a great looking recipe on The Nourished Kitchen.
Feb. 14, 2013 11:42 am
Doc how very lucky you are to still have your mom.My dad is 91 and still going strong.Him and his wife who is 86 still live and maintain their own home.We went to Alberta from Arizona to see my family.I had my mom for to short of a time,she was 59 when she died,so cherish your mom,and i'm glad that you will be able to see her more often.I also love oatmeal.
Feb. 14, 2013 12:28 pm
You're right. I am very lucky. On a good day, I can still hold a conversation with her and make sense of it. On a bad day I can still hold a conversation with her and get a good chuckle at the same time! She is typically, a very happy dementia patient for which I am also very grateful.
Feb. 15, 2013 8:18 am
You're wrong when you said, "I guess she is in that care center because I am too weak to take care of her too". You had the foresight and the strength to know she needs more than one or two people can provide for her. The requirements of care for those such as your mom, are too great and, eventually, you would have been forced to make the same decision. The care facility is prepared for most emergencies and there is no way you could be. Relax, Doc! You are right!
Feb. 15, 2013 11:45 am
Mike, Thanks for that. I have a major guilt complex over my mom. Her brother, a wonderful 81 year old man has been dealing with all of the things I should have been dealing with for at least 15 years now. Soon it will be my turn to get the 2 AM calls about mom having fallen, and me going to the care conferences. I actually am looking forward to this because my Uncle isn't getting any younger and I want to be involved in my mom's care. Living within three hours of her will make that possible.
Feb. 16, 2013 3:12 am
DS: Good luck with your upcoming move! Glad to hear you'll be closer to help with your mother. I am a big fan of steel cut oats. However, I don't cook it in the traditional sense of the word. If you'll allow me to be somewhat bold, I'd like to recommend Overnight Coconut Pecan Steel Cut Oats by Linda LMT. (I intended to post the url address, but it was ridiculously lengthy.)
Feb. 16, 2013 4:01 am
Feb. 16, 2013 7:43 am
Bikerfamily and ConkyJoe, thanks for recipe reco and the link. I was going to try a recipe for baked oatmeal I found on Nourished Kitchen, but I may try this one first.
Feb. 19, 2013 11:18 am
Very touching story, Doc. Dementia is a very hard thing to watch when it's a loved one, especially. At 48, I am very, very fortunate to have both of my grandmothers still living. One is in a nursing home as she was just unable to take care of herself after my grandfather died. But she is much better off, both physically and psychologically as she is a social person, and she loves her roommate. My other grandmother is 95 and still lives alone! As to the oatmeal, I've always like oatmeal, but over the past several years, my taste runs to the steel cut oats. I cook a batch and refrigerate the leftovers to microwave for the coming mornings. I like to use coconut milk and mangoes or pineapple sometimes for a tropical twist and over the holidays, I cooked them in a mixture of eggnog and water and added cranberries. I really like dried tart cherries and almond milk, too. Thanks for sharing your story, and enjoy your oatmeal!
Feb. 20, 2013 7:14 am
Thanks wisweetp!
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Doc Simonson

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St. Peter, Minnesota, USA

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About Me
I'm old and smelly, kinda like a really good salami with that really nice white mould all over it.
My favorite things to cook
Meat, carbs, meat, carbs, meat, carbs and did I mention meat?
My favorite family cooking traditions
Drop a plate of Pierogis and sausages in front of me and watch my eyes glaze over in pure joy.
My cooking triumphs
Schweinebraten mit Knoedel und Krautsalat. Also Edel Hirsch Gulasch was very nice. I make killer Spaetzle and Knockerl also.
My cooking tragedies
There aren't enough electrons in cyberspace! :) Actually, the tragedies usually involve well intentioned creativity out of control.
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