Molecular air and other tasty treats to feature in new palliative care cookbook

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Molecular air and other tasty treats to feature in new palliative care cookbook

HammondCare executive chef, Peter Morgan-Jones is writing a palliative care cookbook.

It's a daunting challenge for even the most seasoned chef. How do you help a young boy to enjoy the simple pleasure of fresh strawberries and ice cream when he so unwell he can’t swallow?

Put a scenario like that before HammondCare’s executive chef, Peter Morgan-Jones, and you can be sure he will find a way.

Peter has written two cookbooks for people who find it difficult to chew and swallow, or use cutlery – maybe because of dementia or a physical limitation like arthritis or a stroke. He is now in the early stages of writing a cookbook for people receiving palliative care.

One ingenious concept likely to feature in the book is molecular air. Peter has seen the joy this simple concept can bring, having trialled it on a friend’s 14-year-old son who has been fed through a peg in his stomach for eight years.

Moved by the boy not having experienced the food for such a long time, Peter devised a way of delivering flavour and fragrance through tiny bubbles that the boy could safely savour on his tongue.

First, he created a liquid, blending fresh strawberries and ice-cream and passing it through a sieve. He then adding a binding agent to help with the formation of bubbles. Using a small, clean, battery-powered fish pump, plastic tubing and a pipette, he frothed the liquid into a delicate foam.

“You spoon that off and you can actually smell the fresh strawberries and ice-cream,” he says.

“You can put it on the tongue and they have the flavour and it pops. It just disappears into nothing, like a flavoured water bubble. You don’t need to swallow it.”

Peter watched on eagerly as the young boy, who cannot speak, experienced the fragrance and flavour.

“His eyes lit up,” says Peter.

“It was one of those wonderful moments.”

Peter says the new cookbook will be created in collaboration with Professor Roderick MacLeod, a senior staff specialist in palliative care and conjoint professor of the University of Sydney, who is based at HammondCare’s Greenwich Hospital. Peter also plans to work with an occupational therapist, dietitian and speech pathologist.

“It’s exciting because there’s nothing like this around,” says Peter, who anticipates the book will be published in June next year.

He says issues like appetite loss and metallic tastes sometimes caused by chemotherapy can impact on the people’s enjoyment of food at the end of life. While they might not be able to eat a meal in the same way they used to, Peter is keen to provide the joy of food to those gain pleasure from it.

His interest in this area was sparked by a hospital visit, having learned that a head chef he had worked with at the Sydney opera house had cancer and only four days to live.

“We sat there for two hours reminiscing about working in the kitchen and as we did that the food came in,” says Peter.

“His eyes dropped and he said ‘look at [what] they are trying to feed me’.”

Peter asked what his friend would like. The response: lobster. So Peter went to the fish markets and returned with a lobster packed in ice, and a plastic knife and fork.

“He didn’t have much, but it was what he wanted,” says Peter.

“I thought, “Man, it would be tough, being at the end of your life and not being able to have what you wanted.”

Peter's first cookbook, "Don't Give Me Eggs that Bounce", includes foams, which he says are useful in palliative care and can be made from any fruit juice.

He is generously sharing his recipe for watermelon, lime and mint foam with Palliative Matters readers (access the recipe here), which is suitable for people on diets of smooth purees and thickened fluids. He suggests pink grapefruit, honey and mint as another refreshing take on the same recipe, which looks like a thick milkshake when poured into a glass. While is a liquid, it can be eaten with a spoon.

From his second cookbook, "It's All About the Food Not the Fork! 107 Easy to Eat Meals in a Mouthful” Peter is sharing his recipe for yoghurt cubes, which is suitable for people on regular, soft, minced or pureed diets (access the recipe here).

Both cookbooks have a big emphasis on finger food. Some people with dementia are agitated by cutlery, while other conditions can make it difficult to hold and use a knife and fork. Peter is keen to ensure these vulnerable people don’t miss out on essential nutrition and says there is more dignity in feeding yourself with your fingers than being fed by someone else.

He says he enjoys the “detective work” sometimes required to work out what is preventing a vulnerable person from eating. He once worked with a lady with dementia who was so agitated at meal times that she threw food at her carers. When he visited her, she hadn’t eaten for two days.

Peter noted that the woman had a therapy doll. “She was being a mum and she didn’t have time to eat because she was caring for her baby,” he says, so he coaxed the doll from her and put it out of sight.

Having made two high-protein milkshakes, he then sat in front of her and drank one.

“I raised hers to her mouth and she ended up drinking two of them. The carers were nervous; they thought I was going to get covered in the smoothie. Now she doesn’t have the doll at meal times and it’s all good.”

Peter says eating is one of the few things we do on a daily basis that engages all of our senses at the one time.

For further information on the cookbooks and to order them visit: