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The Curious Case of the Chilli Con Carne

Updated: Mar 21, 2021

My dementia is merely a part of my life.

Something I live with.

I feel its presence hovering around me almost all of the time, and I have learned to be on my guard against its effects so that I can use various routines and strategies to lessen it’s impact.

I have bought a white case for my black mobile phone, to make it easier to see when I put it down (It disappears, chameleon like when placed on any dark surface), and have trained my “Alexa” device to dial it up when I ask “Alexa. Where’s my phone”.

I have two large whiteboards, one in my study and one in the kitchen on which are written reminders and “to dos” for day, week and month. I use Google Keep and One Note to synchronise personal notes between my smartphone, PC and laptop, and strong, encrypted password manger software to store my most sensitive personal info.

So I’m Bullet proof eh?

Well, anyone with dementia will tell you that that’s not the case. I do all that I can to live well with dementia, but it’s a progressive disease, and you never know what memories or brain functions it will affect next, so one must be ready to adapt, improvise, overcome.

The slow, relentless progression of my dementia is illustrated by events that occurred when I was making a Chilli Con Carne last Friday.

Chilli Con-Fusion

I love Chilli. The hotter the better. A love not shared by my wife. Therefore, for the last 30 or so years I have regularly cooked myself up a batch every month or so to eat and freeze.

I have always used the same recipe (it’s not written down anywhere, it’s in my head).

I have always used the same ingredients.

I have always used the same method.

After 30 years, I don’t even have to think about it. I’m in the groove when making my Chilli. It’s “muscle memory”. I cook on autopilot.

Until last Friday.

Here’s what happened.

Pam was away at work on a “sleep over” so I decided to do my monthly Chilli cook up.

I peeled and sliced my mushrooms, onions and bell peppers (red, green and yellow for a nice bit of colour). Then I opened a can of chopped tomatoes and a can of baked beans (my preference over chilli beans, which I always find rather bland and tasteless). I got my spices measured out and ready and minced a little fresh garlic, then I put the pan on the hob, heated some olive oil and began to sauté the minced (ground to my American friends) beef.

So far, so good.

Then I began to add the rest of the ingredients.

It soon became apparent that the pot I had chosen was far too small for the job, and that there was no way that it would accommodate everything.

I always use the same pot….

Except that I didn’t last Friday.

What was I thinking?

I quickly got my old faithful chilli pot out of the cupboard, transferred the contents from the small pot and added the rest of the ingredients… Job done! And just a little extra washing up to do.

After the cooking period was done, I ladled the finished Chilli into some Tupperware (God bless you Mr. Earl Tupper) containers for home freezing, then settled down in front of the TV for a well earned bowl for my evening meal.

I tucked in to my first steaming spoonful of hot, fresh chilli.

Something wasn’t right. My chilli has a kick like a mule. That’s the beauty of it. But this one tasted pedestrian and bland.

I laid aside the bowl and went back into the kitchen. A quick look in the refrigerator showed me that the beautiful bunch of birds-eye chillies that should have been at the heart of my recipe were still sat in then fridge – I had forgotten to add them!

I suddenly felt very sad and angry.

Not because of the chilli, but because of the knowledge that I had failed to perform a routine task properly and efficiently.

It was one of those moments when I was being directly confronted with stark, concrete evidence of my decline.

But it’s useless sitting staring into the abyss, so, like the mighty detective Sherlock Holmes, I analysed the facts, and after having deduced that the culprit was indeed dementia, I have developed a strategy to foil the dastardly villain in any future attempts to sabotage my chilli…

So I have written a short bullet point guide of prompts for myself to navigate me safely through the process from shopping through cooking, highlighting any possible hitches.

Seems over the top?

Perhaps, but I am determined to be as independent as I can for as long as I can. And that includes continuing to perform all of the functions and rituals that I have always enjoyed for as long as I am able, even if it means that I adjust the way that I do them.

I am determined to:


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