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Cookbook preserves recipes, stories from people with dementia

LeBlanc said the society always does a special holiday campaign and that the holidays are often about family gatherings, laughter and creating memories.  (Credit: iStock/Getty Images - image credit)
LeBlanc said the society always does a special holiday campaign and that the holidays are often about family gatherings, laughter and creating memories. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images - image credit)

Marie-Paule LeBlanc says Memories from the Kitchen is "one of the best projects I've done in my life."

The book is a collection of recipes and stories from people with dementia and their families.

LeBlanc, a self-proclaimed foodie who is the philanthropy co-ordinator for the Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick, said the society always does a special holiday campaign, and that the holidays are often about family gatherings, laughter and creating memories.

"And since memories is that aspect of life that our clients and the people we serve, they're trying to hold on to, we thought about keeping those cherished memories alive in this cookbook," said LeBlanc.

She said most of the recipes have notes from the families of caregivers.

LeBlanc said the society used social media and its newsletter to reach people and get them to submit recipes. She said the response was great, and it was nice being able to read the stories and to try some of the food as well.

"That food, or that special recipe, represents the love of their family, the love of their mother," said LeBlanc.

"The love that is passed on through food and through gathering around the kitchen table is really something that, for us, was the cherry on top."

The stories behind the recipes

She said the titles of the recipes are the same as what was submitted. Instead of just saying chocolate cake, it would say "Grammie Mullins' chocolate cake."

Alzheimer Society New Brunswick website
Alzheimer Society New Brunswick website

One of LeBlanc's favourite recipes is for "Jimmy's birthday cake."  She said the story behind it makes it special.

When Jimmy was a kid, he didn't like typical birthday cakes, so his mom made him a type of cheesecake that became known as "Jimmy's birthday cake," said LeBlanc. His mother continued to make this cake for years until he was in his 40s and she had dementia.

Another that stuck out to LeBlanc was "Italian Sunday gravy," which takes a day to make and involves the whole family.

"It was a little bit of tradition also because we do have recipes from different countries, not just from the Maritimes," she said.

LeBlanc said it wasn't hard to get people to share their recipes due to the message behind the book.

One woman, said LeBlanc, gave them her "very famous, very secret brownie recipe" because her husband died from Alzheimer's and she wanted to share that recipe to support the cause.

The book is available on their website with each purchase of the $20 book going to support the Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick.

LeBlanc said the design of the book is "very dementia friendly" and that dementia-friendly tips for the kitchen are included.

She said something special about the book is that people with dementia "will not forget feelings."

"They will forget things and objects or people, but the feelings are there," she said. "Just being around a table, the smell, the food — they can feel that and that can make them feel special."