One reason I’d wanted to move into my continuing care retirement community was to stop cooking dinner. I’d grown tired of planning meals, dashing to the supermarket for missing ingredients, and cleaning up the kitchen afterward.
In the years before my husband’s Parkinson’s disease worsened, he’d done the dishes. But for the 18 months before we moved, the kitchen work had been all mine. I’d wanted someone else to take over.
Our community has two eating places, a dining room with cloth-covered tables where waiters serve a plated dinner, and an informal bistro where you can grab a burger anytime. Both restaurants stop seating people at seven o’clock, which is much earlier than we had been accustomed to, but okay.
Tom and I each receive 388 food points a month to use however we choose. That’s enough for one full meal a day, with wine, and then some. So far, we haven’t run out of points at the end of the month, and we’ve invited guests regularly.
Quantity hasn’t been a problem. Quality? A slightly different story.
Ordering from all over the menu, we discovered some dishes were quite good, some were just good, and some were awful. There was a lot of repetition. I soon grew tired of potatoes and noodles and breaded cutlets.
I missed the quinoa, ethnic food, and exotic veggies I used to enjoy. One Sunday we didn’t go to the restaurant; I dragged out the wok I had insisted on keeping when we moved into our apartment and cooked Chinese style.
I did so the following week. Then I prepared others of our old favorites: rack of lamb and bison burgers. Each time the smell of spices and rendering meat permeated our apartment. Not anticipated, but delicious.
My enthusiasm for flavor soon gave way, however, partly because I hated going to a new supermarket to get ingredients – I didn’t know where to find things – and partly out of pique. We were paying for meals and I wanted my money’s worth.
I decided to adapt to the menu by bringing my own quinoa to the dining room. And scallions and pumpkin seeds to sprinkle on top. Then I noticed another woman was improving the fare.
She brought a baggie full of spices with her to the table. Like me, she must have wanted to enjoy the taste of home in the place she now called home.
More people took things away from the table than brought things to it, though. I soon noticed that people ordered their soup “to go” so they could take it to their apartment for lunch the next day. Other people filled plastic containers with a second helping from the salad bar to serve as the base for another meal.
Some people ordered double veggies and a doggie bag along with their entrée. Taking cookies and deserts home to nibble in front of the TV seemed to be standard operating procedure.
The waiters patiently packaged all the take-out requests. Clearly, residents didn’t want food, or points, to go to waste. I don’t like waste either, but it seemed to me that the take-out game would require brainwork I no longer wanted to expend.
In the end, it came down to energy. I had to prioritize my husband’s care and my own health, which includes writing and maintaining our athletic dog’s lifestyle, over the extra brainwork the dining game would require.
But adding flavor or jicama to an ordinary dish? That was an acceptable expenditure of energy. So was taking home anything I got too full to eat.
I decided it was okay to dedicate a little bit of bandwidth to making meals a little bit more enjoyable. I overcame my second thoughts, especially when I saw how often my husband spilled soup on the tablecloth. Someone else cleaned up after him, with a smile.
Not all CCRC’s run their meal plans in the same way. Make sure to find out how meals are handled in the CCRC that interests you. Please do contact me if you want more detail.
How often do you cook at home? Do you sometimes find it tedious? Why? Do you think you could get used to food cooked by others? Please share with our community.