I am often accused that I am a pain, and that really pains me. I really appreciate being here and I try to contribute. I have found out that we inmates are not expected or allowed to contribute.
The fact that I only eat kosher foods makes me different. On occasions I have realized that ham and bacon are also pork. Then I would refuse it. Sometimes they would serve me a dish that’s clear what it is, I would also not eat. Now with finances being so tight, they would often serve dishes with commercially produced “meat balls” or “sausages”. These I would also not eat as in many cases they are made with a mixture of questionable cuts left-over cuts of beef, lots of pork and again the left-over cuts and they would add “other protein sources” or “other meat products” that could be almost anything from horse meat to soya beans.
The management’s solution
The management has instructed them when they serve my dish to tell me what it is. Like “Good evening Mrs. Mueller, the cook asked me to tell you this is beef stew made from brisket. and the sauce has been made the vegetable stock and contains no pork. Enjoy your supper! ”
But the reality is they now think of me as a pain in the ….. The dish is plonk down on front of me while they are still a long way from the table and muttered “it is beef” while they are are already walking away. No chance to make eye contact and to tell them with a genuine smile that I appreciate the food that she brings me and I agree that it sucks that they make her tell me that, I have a better solution that would make her life and mine very pleasant, it would be quality life which is my field of expertise. I once tried to ask her if the meatballs were pure beef or if it contained other things. She insisted it was pure beef. Her response was too fast and I did not trust her and I knew she did not have the language skills the discuss this with me. So now I was a bigger pain than ever.
My heart ached, she is a wonderful mom working hard to make ends meet. When this pain has eaten, if she does refuse the food again, she still has the kitchen to clean and throw out the rejected food that her kids might enjoy.
I could so relate to her. I had to fees three growing boys, all over 6ft then already. They would gobble up the food without a sign that they understood the time and effort one had spent to get wholesome food. I wpuld bake several loves of bread every day which they loved but they complained bitterly when we only had matzos and flat bread during Passover. They did love to eat the matzos with my famous bully-beef stew, I got the recipe from my father, they made it from their rations and local vegetables. He was fighting Rommel in the Sahara and fresh food was in short supply. You could get Spam quite readily here but I had to really hunt to find a supplier of canned corn beef, no pork or bread crumbs.
I have not been able to interview the chef personally but i did put a short bio of her in the Kiwanis Krier. I do hope I get a chance to do so. She plays a key role in the well-being of the residents. I do believe she understands the importance of her position and I would love to promote her more so that she gets the credit that her position deserves. And I happen to know about cooking as I had to learn how to prepare kosher dishes from scratch on a very tight budget. Then I got Parkinson’s and took two courses “Food as Medicine” from Monash University = also learned how to prepare vegetarian dished and halaal dishes.
I am a pain!
But these days I don’t manage a smile very often. I more often than not don’t manage to eat the food that she plonks down in front of me – because Parkinson’s has played me a dirty trick. I am literally a walking cloud of pain. Somehow the disease has interfered with the circuits that detect pain, so they now transmit pain signals to the brain even though there is no real damage, it is like a phantom pain. Then added to that it destroyed my sense of smell making food smell awful, you know it is not real but it is hard to make yourself eat it. Then my mouth is covered in sores another gift from Parkinson’s.
But hope I get a chance to tell the kitchen staff that I am sorry I am a pain but I really do appreciate them.