A couple of years ago, when in India, I was helping my sister in the kitchen. I reached to turn off the flame because the green beans were in that awesome al dente stage, when my sister caught me in the act. "No, no, no" she said. "Appa and amma can't chew well if they are this firm. These need to cook a little bit more."
You see, al dente works only when we have all those teeth in good condition. The reality is that as we get old, those teeth don't work no more. And, therefore, the sans teeth and sans taste that Shakespeare wrote about!
As we get deeper into that second childhood and infancy, food once again is purées. Thankfully, my parents are not at that stage, yet.
Think about Japan, which has the world's highest proportion of people 65 and older. And with all those 100-plus people.
The country is a global leader in adapting to the needs of an aging citizenry, with racks of reading glasses at bank counters and walking-cane holders in city offices.So, of course, Japan is addressing this no more al dente food issue. The pureed food transforms into "solids":
In Japan, companies are developing special thickening products that can be added to meals during preparation to alter the texture of various foods and ease swallowing. In a culture where meals are prepared with great care and artistry, the thickening gels make it possible for chefs to reshape the food into visually pleasing dishes.How fascinating, right?
For the residents who have more severe swallowing issues, the staff sent the meal through a food processor, adding a gel powder before cooking the puréed versions in vacuum-sealed plastic bags. Then the resulting gelatinous blocks were poured into molds so that the chefs could create meals that looked like a piece of fish accented with slices of carrots and radish.When it comes to old age issues, Japan is in the forefront. The rest of us are behind, but not by that much.
“We want them to enjoy different textures, flavors and looks,” said Fumie Egashira, a dietary consultant who works with the nursing home. “This is one of the greatest joys for them. We are not satisfied just because they feel full or can eat safely. We also have to give them pleasure and let them share a meal together.”
With its expanding efforts to accommodate the growing population of the elderly, Japan offers a foretaste of the kinds of societal changes that are beginning to shake a number of wealthy places with rapidly aging populations, including many countries in Western Europe as well as South Korea and Hong Kong.I have only suggestion for you, dear reader: Floss! ;)
|"A jelly-type meal at a nursing home in Atsugi, Japan. Companies are developing thickening products that ease swallowing but still allow the creation of visually pleasing dishes. "|