Family mealtimes can be a trial, even at home when you have everyone’s likes and dislikes and allergies firmly in place. Imagine the complexity of preparing and serving institutional meals! We tend to criticize without appreciating the effort they involve.
This week I visited a friend who is in a nursing home, taking a break from her limited lifestyle at home. It was late afternoon, the time to grab a snack to boost energy until dinner time. Except here it was dinnertime. By 5.30 p.m. everyone was in place at the dining-room, ready for the last meal of the day.
Tonight, (in a manner of speaking), it was hamburgers. Simple? Not so. I shared the table with four elderly women, two of whom reached the table in their wheelchairs, and not all of them too sure where they actually were. First they were given a small cup, the kind that holds ketchup at McDonald’s, but now with pre-meal pills.
Then, one by one came, the plates with hamburgers as the centerpiece. Each plate reflected dietary demands – no sodium, low sodium, more potassium, no fats, less iron, etc. Three held actual hamburgers, two with a small portion fries, two with zucchini – one fried, one stewed. The fourth plate had an anemic looking slice of turkey (I think!) as the resident followed a no-red-meat diet. Juice or iced-tea to meet needs, and a bowl of canned fruit salad – with a cherry in each one.
There was equal precision and variety at the other twenty or so tables. The only constant was the smile on the servers’ faces: kind and patient, a lesson to all of us who get ticked off when the complaints roll in!
© 2009 Jane Manaster. All Rights Reserved.