Thursday, November 10, 2016
“I don't want that cookie. It has raisins in it.”
“But you love raisins.”
“I like to eat them by themselves, not in anything.”
“That has chunks in it. I can't eat it.”
“Those are tomatoes. You love tomato sauce.”
“Not with chunks in it.”
When the people of Planet NT think about problems with food, they may think about allergies or perhaps gluten sensitivities, or even vegetarianism. Lord knows we may have to cope with all of those, with loved ones on the autism spectrum. And we may throw in casein (milk protein) with the gluten as a no no. I have a cookbook to help with GFCF if you need it. Actually I have two. One, originally distributed by the Autism Research Institute, is out of print, but copies come up occasionally on Amazon. The other is free or cheap on Kindle and is also available as a cheap little paperback. But I wanted to talk about the quirkier stuff. A lot of that has to do with texture.
There are many things that may be unacceptable, or just evoke extreme anxiety. I remember watching my older son going over a fish filet for an hour, with a pair of tweezers, before creating a fish taco. He was making sure there weren't actually any bones in it. Nuts and seeds may be unacceptable. Lumps, chunks, or even bits of herb may refused. A hamburger patty and a bun may be eaten separately but refused when together. Vegetables may be anathema.
You can try insisting that what is put before your loved one must be eaten, which is very unlikely to be successful, or you can adapt. Honestly, would you eat something that made you uncomfortable? Would you want to be forced?
Adaptations are not that tough, once you understand what preferences are. There are many smooth sauces out there. If you can't find one, things can be pureed. It you leave nuts out of a cookie or cake, you may find that mini chocolate chips or butterscotch pieces are not only acceptable, but make a better cookie. If you are caretaker to someone who wants to cook for themselves, you might want to let them do so, just hang close enough for safety. You may find the amount of food they shovel into their mouths when they've cooked their own meal, astonishing. In addition, you will be teaching living skills in a non-threatening way.
The most important thing about food is reading labels. That's not always the easiest thing to do, especially if you're like me and left forty in the rear view mirror a long time ago. A magnifying app on your phone can be helpful. So can a plain old magnifying glass.
In our family, the biggest hazard has always been MSG, which makes my younger son violent. I have met food buying caretakers who did not know that it stands for monosodium glutamate. Bad things ensued, especially from chili beans.
Due to a quirk in the law, non-dairy does not mean casein free. If you're worried about casein, you do have to check the fine print. Forget the word natural. It doesn't mean something is good for you. The cyanide in peach pits is perfectly natural. That doesn't make eating it a good idea. The USDA organic label refers to the avoidance of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. That doesn't necessarily make the food good for you either. You still have to check on what is in it.
Eternal vigilance can be the price of a quiet dinner and healthy son or daughter. As I've said before, the buck stops here.