For several years past, my father has slowly stopped eating a 'normal' diet, owing to various real and perhaps imagined ailments. When he and my mother first came to stay with me in Gummidipoondi in early 2005, he was mostly partaking of a 'normal' North Indian diet, with chapatis and veggies and dals and salads. He and my mother would start the day with tea and toast, have hot milk with muesli for breakfast, some fruit for elevenses, and they would have lunch with the SRE, whose workplace was near enough for him to come home for lunch and a quick nap. Dinner was usually a vegetable with a light gravy and some curd.
After a while, Dad found that chapatis were difficult for him to chew, so we started soaking them in the dal or the vegetable gravy. His dentures were troublesome, but given his limited mobility and the distance to Chennai, he wasn't too enthusiastic about getting a new set. He also has one tooth of his own which complicates life a bit- he is uncomfortable if he removes the denture for any length of time.
We moved to Kolkata, the following summer, and my parents spent a few months in Delhi with my sister while I house-hunted (that's another story- I saw between 35-40 houses and apartments before finalising this one, which I didn't actually see before moving in, I saw its twin on the first floor) and then moved my worldly goods. Dad decided that even soaked chapatis were no fun, so he had toast dipped in his dal or sabzi or soup. The occasional home made dosas were relished, as were moong dal chillas with coriander chutney (especially made for him without chillies). Lauki (vegetable marrow) was his vegetable of choice, and that too had to have no seeds at all or very tender ones. My mother would enjoy all kinds of things, and Dad would occasionally try something a little spicy or rich, but it would usually not agree with him. The same Dad who would break off a piece of his sizzling hot green chilli for me to try, was now eating very bland and rather boring food. Dad had always been fond of good food, so it was rather painful seeing him struggle through what he thought agreed with him.
Life changed for us all with my mother's illness. Dad developed a serious lung infection, and by the time my mother had passed away, he had more or less given up on solid food. He spent weeks on liquids: fruit juice and buttermilk, the occasional cup of tea with a Marie biscuit. The doctor described him as terminally ill. Though he is immensely frail and not able to sit up without support, he's been quite lucid. I'd keep asking him what he'd like to eat, and he rarely evinced interest in anything. Years ago, when were living in Lucknow, my parents had visited us, and one of the things my father had really liked were potato cutlets with a cheese filling. So one fine day he agreed to have those. Cheese is of course not always easy to digest, but those cheese cutlets got him back on the eating track. Nowadays his diet still consists of a lot of liquids, but the staple solid foods are potato tikkis with coriander chutney, khichdi, paneer (chhena) mixed with powdered sugar, ice cream, and the occasional piece of chocolate!
The doctor is really surprised and pleased at his progress. I mix up and keep large batches of the tikki mixture and chutney, so that the day and night nurses can shallow fry them for him whenever he wants some. I often come back from my morning walk to a house redolent of fried tikkis. I have started curdling the milk for the chhena with curd- the resultant chhena is very soft, and is easier for Dad to swallow.
Alu tikkis : Six medium sized boiled potatoes
Brown bread slices: 4 small
Salt and garam masala to taste
Oil for shallow frying
Peel and mash the potatoes. Crumb the bread in the mixie masala jar. Mix thoroughly with potatoes, salt and spices. Shape into flat tikkis. Shallow fry till brown and crisp.
One cup thoroughly washed coriander leaves
Two-three small tomatoes or a raw mango in season
(Then you can skip the amchur and lemon juice)
Asafoetida powder- a good pinch
Garam masala- a large pinch
Salt and kala namak to taste
Blend all ingredients in the chutney jar of your blender. Check for seasonings. For regular chutney add a green chilli or two.
Serve tikkis with chutney