So today was the first official day of rotations, and I was scheduled to arrive at the Lambeth House, a retirement home and long term care facility, at 7:30 AM. I woke up at 6, let the dog out, made breakfast, ironed my polo, tried on all 3 “nice” pairs of pants I have to realize that the ones from high school are too short (!?) and I need to go buy some more, and got my butt out the door as fast as possible. I stressed as people in front of me drove slowly, I came upon a detour on Magazine, and I parked my car in the wrong spot.
Turns out I greatly complicated my morning for nothing: our first item on the agenda was breakfast. The woman at the front desk asked me to move my car, but my preceptor, Stephanie, insisted “No, no, no, we’ll eat breakfast then you can move your car!” Biscuits, eggs, bacon, pancakes, grits, coffee, juice, and probably anything I could have thought to ask for. Looks like I’ll be rollin outta bed around 6:45 tomorrow.
As Erin, Rebecca, and I ate, Stephanie spoke with us about the rotation: “You ladies are already dietitians. You know what you need to do. I am not here to use you for your labor, you will get to work all day long at the hospital. No, here we will have fun.” We’ll be planning what is normally a “theme event”, but instead of having a theme she had decided it would just be a cocktail party “Our residents are set in their ways. We’ve tried before to have hurricanes, martinis, margaritas…but they will always ask for their scotch on the rocks.” Our job for the party, which will take up most of our work hours this week, is to decide what hors d’oeuvres will be served and go through the steps for budgeting, nutrient analysis, and procurement for the recipes. We will make invitations for the residents, cook, and finally hold the cocktail party at the end of the week.
Today’s task, however, was to become familiar with the kitchen by taking over some of the lunch preparation tasks that normally would be done by a staff member who was able to stay home this morning. Erin was in charge of carrot raisin salad, Rebecca plated desserts, and I made ham sandwiches. First, I had to use the deli slicer to cut ham and cheddar cheese. I have used a deli slicer before at a previous job, and it always makes one arm really tired. It makes me wish that you could switch sides and use it as a workout, but it looks like my right arm is on its way to being freakishly overdeveloped if I keep up this deli slicing business. Once everything was all prepped (which also included slicing tomatoes), Stefanie showed me how to assemble sandwiches the Lambeth House way. “According to the residents,” she said, “each bite of the sandwich should taste the same.” A thin layer of mayonnaise was spread on each slice of bread, then a slice of ham was folded to fit just so, followed by an artfully torn leaf of lettuce, two thin tomato slices, another slice of ham, a slice of cheese (cut to fit the bread), and another slice of ham. Cutting the sandwiches was to be done in a special manner so as not to leave finger prints in the bread.
Once the three of us had completed our tasks, we all pitched in to cut up fruit salad, then sanitize the spaces we had used. By that time it was around 10:30, and we headed to the dietary office to work on our cocktail party planning – an essential skill for any girl to master. We took to heart what the chef had told us: the residents can’t exactly go out and play tennis, and it’s not like they’re having all sorts of crazy sex, so their daily excitement comes mainly from their meals. Side note: this is a concept that anyone who has ever traveled on Amtrak knows all about: the novelty of being on a train wears off really fast and your entire day revolves around food. What they will want is something different, and to get to know us. We are new, young, and exciting for them. Keeping this in mind, the three of us thought it would be fun to create appetizers out of dishes from our home states. Erin is from California, so we’re thinking some authentic Mexican quesedilla wedges will be tasty and easily portable for the party. We are brainstorming about a way to turn shrimp and grits into an appetizer (possibly using grit cakes and toothpicks) to represent Rebecca, a local. Massachusetts’ best signature dish (in my opinion, anyway) is New England clam chowder, so we’ve got one of the other women in the dietary office seeing whether there are small demitasse cups or some other serving vessel that we could set out appetizer-sized portions of the soup in.
After spending a while brainstorming, we were invited to the dining room for lunch. Let me say, I have never been to a nicer lunch before in my life. The kitchen at Lambeth House is run as a restaurant, not like most senior long term care facilities where there is a tray line, and you serve up food on plastic trays that you then deliver with a hairnet and gloves on. The three of us sat down at a table with beautiful linens and comfortable, sturdy chairs. We were handed a menu that included many choices: two different soups, two different salads, a sandwich option (the ones that I made!), and three hot entree options, with three choices of a side and several dessert options. Today’s menu included fish chowder or minestrone; ham sandwich, fried chicken, red beans and rice, or grilled salmon with cranberry glaze; a choice of peas and carrots, mashed potato, rice, or mixed vegetables; and an assortment of ice creams or chocolate cake for dessert. I chose minestrone, fruit salad, grilled salmon, steamed vegetables, and chocolate cake. Compared to a typical Lauren lunch of salad and yogurt, this was really incredible. The fish was cooked to perfection, the soup was outstanding, and by the end of the meal I was stuffed and happy.
Overall, it was an awesome first day, and I can’t wait to really start getting into the assignments that we have. Hopefully I’ll be able to stay trim with all this delicious food!