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Cooking for 50 Senior Citizens


CaliPoutine
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Hey Randi.

Take heart. Some seniors really do complain about everything (my MIL is a prime example). At my program I am lucky that only about half of the 100 guests are "old people" LOL. And they certainly DO complain; too spicy, too bland, too much sauce ("don't you know we can't eat *that*, Karen), not enough dessert, too many sweets, etc. Sometimes the same person will make two conflicting complaints about the same dish. Sheesh. And it does become a bit tiresome to be looking for "real" food that we can make for less than $3 per person. It's a lot of work, and I understand how that can be tiring, and perhaps even take energy away from your other, more creative, work.

FWIW, I think that the guests at our programs actually do appreciate the food and the care that we put into cooking for them. After all, do we still see people with take-home boxes? Yes! Even the ones who complain take something home. (obviously for further testing).

For me, there are many collateral benefits to working for the church program that I do: networking opportunities for private catering, networking opportunities for developing supplier relationships, developing friendships with some of the volunteers, renting the kitchen for my own use, developing different skill sets (i.e., teaching, large scale planning, budget development), etc. Only you can know whether it's important to continue your current contract.

Best to you. I really do enjoy your thread here. Sorry I haven't been able to provide more support.

Karen Dar Woon

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At points in your life, did you eat institutional food (elementary/high school lunchroom, college cafeteria, hospital dining room, corporate cafeteria)? Did it ever occur to you to compliment the cook? I know I never once sought out my college dining hall's competent cooks and thanked them....I only wrote bitchy complaints and stuffed them into the suggestion box! In retrospect, the cafeteria's food wasn't THAT bad, just repetitious and kinda bland. It can be difficult for people to accept the loss of control when they cede food prep/cooking over to other people. We often deal with this loss of control through venting....

I wouldn't take all of those complaints personally--it's the nature of the beast. Accept that they'll never fawn over your food, nor be grateful or effusive in their praise. It's part of the circumstances & setting. Listen "between" their complaints--I'd wager you're hearing mostly age-related unhappiness or routine, stylized complaining (like my complaint cards all those years ago).

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At points in your life, did you eat institutional food (elementary/high school lunchroom, college cafeteria, hospital dining room, corporate cafeteria)? Did it ever occur to you to compliment the cook?

I went to college and lived in my dorm when I was in my early 30's and I'd already developed an interest in food( I'd previously attended culinary school) so YES, I did thank the chefs in our dining hall. Especially since I made frequent requests for off the menu items. Yesterday, I also complimented and thanked the sous chef at work for making us lunch. I don;t think I'm asking for too much to hear " Thank You" every once in awhile .

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But your relationship with food is exceptional--attending culinary school, choosing to make it your life's work. Your diners clearly don't invest the same emotional weight in it that you do. I'm deeply respectful of your dedication to this project, your efforts to broaden their food horizons, your concerns about their nutrition...but it is important to realize that not everyone feels such a deep connection to food, nor a deep respect for its preparation. Their lack of appreciation may stem from a "food as fuel" cultural attitude.

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It can be difficult for people to accept the loss of control when they cede food prep/cooking over to other people.  We often deal with this loss of control through venting....

I wouldn't take all of those complaints personally--it's the nature of the beast.  Accept that they'll never fawn over your food, nor be grateful or effusive in their praise.  It's part of the circumstances & setting.  Listen "between" their complaints--I'd wager you're hearing mostly age-related unhappiness or routine, stylized complaining.

These are important points to remember when feeling discouraged. You can't please all the people all the time, and there always seems to be someone ready with criticism.

Those 'silent' ones who keep attending the meals and buying take-away show that you are doing a fine job; it would be great if they told you so, but their actions show they appreciate you.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I cook for the Seniors tomorrow. I went to the main office to make up a soup ( instead of salad) to use the roasts that were left over( I think they were from January).

gallery_25969_665_550900.jpg

I used Barley and canned tomatoes, better than boullion beef broth and some spices along with onions, celery, carrots and potatoes. I'll add some frozen peas tomorrow.

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I cook for the Seniors tomorrow.  I went to the main office to make up a soup ( instead of salad) to use the roasts that were left over( I think they were from January).

We served a soup a couple of weeks ago, which used the last bit of (frozen) Easter ham. One of the guests, asking where the ham came from, looked rather dismayed that we used Easter ham leftovers. We reassured him that the food had been frozen RIGHT AWAY after dinner in March.

Karen Dar Woon

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I cook for the Seniors tomorrow.  I went to the main office to make up a soup ( instead of salad) to use the roasts that were left over( I think they were from January).

We served a soup a couple of weeks ago, which used the last bit of (frozen) Easter ham. One of the guests, asking where the ham came from, looked rather dismayed that we used Easter ham leftovers. We reassured him that the food had been frozen RIGHT AWAY after dinner in March.

Thankfully, they didnt ask. They seemed to enjoy it a lot. It thickened up quite a bit overnight. I did notice a lot of people using salt. I didnt taste the soup because I don't eat red meat, but I'm glad it wasnt oversalted. I used Better Than Boullion Beef base.

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I made a recipe from TAH magazine. The original recipe calls for this stuffing mix to be placed in a baking dish and then boneless pork chops cooked on top. You glaze them w/ a mix of brown sugar and mustard. Chicken breasts were on sale for 1.97lb( very cheap for this area) and I havent made chicken for them for awhile.

I got a frantic call from the director yesterday morning. She was worried that I was going to place raw chicken on top of the stuffing. I told her it would be fine( people around here stuff their turkeys, although I never do). I decided just to bake the chicken separately to assuage her fears. The stuffing is a boxed mix, creamed corn, onion and celery. We did it in the crock pot.

gallery_25969_665_418839.jpg

I ordered 25 breasts and had the butcher cut them in half cross-wise. The coordinator didnt think that would be enough( it was, we had tons left over) and had me order another 15. I knew most of the women would only eat half a breast.

gallery_25969_665_44530.jpg

I just baked them with some S & P and then used a high qaulity BBQ sauce( Diana's sauce, no HFCS) for the last 10 min of cooking.

One lady said " I could just cry because there is no potatoes and gravy" I said " You have stuffing" and she said " where" and I pointed to the bowl and she said " with corn in it? and I said " Yep".

Another lady said " This is an exceptional meal".

I also made glazed baby carrots and they had ice cream and hot fudge for dessert. I baked off a boxed mix of oatmeal and honey bran muffins for their bread.

Edited by CaliPoutine (log)
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One lady said " I could just cry because there is no potatoes and gravy" I said " You have stuffing" and she said " where" and I pointed to the bowl and she said " with corn in it? and I said " Yep".

:laugh: What did she think it was?

I too must say I think you're doing a fabulous job, and I'm glad you're keeping us in the loop with your preparations. Though you being up the difficulties of the job, it makes me miss my time in community kitchens when I was living in NC.

How long did it take for that volume of stuffing to come to temp? Most of my experience involved cook/chill (our food was prepped the afternoon before the actual dinner service) and I always had to account for the time it took for dense foods to cool down/ warm up. But starting with room temp ingredients, I'm just curious......

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How long did it take for that volume of stuffing to come to temp? Most of my experience involved cook/chill (our food was prepped the afternoon before the actual dinner service) and I always had to account for the time it took for dense foods to cool down/ warm up. But starting with room temp ingredients, I'm just curious......

It took about 1.5 hrs. It was very hot when it was time to serve.

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I got a frantic call from the director yesterday morning.  She was worried that I was going to place raw chicken on top of the stuffing.  I told her it would be fine( people around here stuff their turkeys, although I never do).  I decided just to bake the chicken separately to assuage her fears.   

Actually, I always bake off the chicken separately, just 'cos it's faster, and then I get the drippings for gravy :-)

Especially for 50+ portions

One lady said " I could just cry because there is no potatoes and gravy"  I said " You have stuffing" and she said " where" and I pointed to the bowl and she said " with corn in it?  and I said " Yep".

Hug

Another lady said " This is an exceptional meal". 

Hurray!

Earlier this year, we had a number of complaints about "no meat" in the Community Meals. The reality was that I made 2 meatless meals in 6 weeks. Oh well.

Karen Dar Woon

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I did notice a lot of people using salt. I didnt taste the soup because I don't eat red meat, but I'm glad it wasnt oversalted. I used Better Than Boullion Beef base.

I really should mind my own business with this one because I know it's probably going to offend even though I don't mean for it to. But I've never been the king of tact so here goes. I don't think anyone should cook anything that someone is going to pay to eat that they're not willing to taste. I'm not saying you should compromise your beliefs but maybe you shouldn't include red meat on your menu. Anyway, that's just one asshole's opinion. Hope it doesn't make you hate me.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I did notice a lot of people using salt. I didnt taste the soup because I don't eat red meat, but I'm glad it wasnt oversalted. I used Better Than Boullion Beef base.

I really should mind my own business with this one because I know it's probably going to offend even though I don't mean for it to. But I've never been the king of tact so here goes. I don't think anyone should cook anything that someone is going to pay to eat that they're not willing to taste. I'm not saying you should compromise your beliefs but maybe you shouldn't include red meat on your menu. Anyway, that's just one asshole's opinion. Hope it doesn't make you hate me.

I must tactfully disagree with you. I know there are many chefs who have allergies so severe that even a taste of the food could prove fatal. So whether by choice (vegetarianism, religion) or by fate (allergic reactions) much food that we pay to have prepared is not tasted by the one responsible for its preparation.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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You don't have to tactfully disagree, just go ahead and let me have it. I can take it. I fully accept that it's just my opinion and not a fact of life. :biggrin:

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I did notice a lot of people using salt. I didnt taste the soup because I don't eat red meat, but I'm glad it wasnt oversalted. I used Better Than Boullion Beef base.

I really should mind my own business with this one because I know it's probably going to offend even though I don't mean for it to. But I've never been the king of tact so here goes. I don't think anyone should cook anything that someone is going to pay to eat that they're not willing to taste. I'm not saying you should compromise your beliefs but maybe you shouldn't include red meat on your menu. Anyway, that's just one asshole's opinion. Hope it doesn't make you hate me.

Of course I totally disagree with you. I actually did taste the liquid, I swished it around in my mouth and then spit it out!! ( I didnt write that originally because it sounded gross ). I did NOT taste it again after it sat overnight. I did have THREE other people taste it though.

I'm Jewish and I don't eat Ham. Should I never cook the Seniors ham( which they totally love?). I also hate raw tomatoes, should I never include them in a salad?

I actually think I'm a pretty darn good cook, because I can prepare foods that I hate/avoid and they turn out pretty damn good!!

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Of course I totally disagree with you. I actually did taste the liquid, I swished it around in my mouth and then spit it out!!  ( I didnt write that originally because it sounded gross ).  I did NOT taste it again after it sat overnight.  I did have THREE other people taste it though. 

Then what I said was irrelevant... it was tasted before it was served. I apologize. I didn't pick up on that from the original post. To me it read as "I hope it isn't too salty but I really have no idea... oh good, they're adding salt". My mistake.

I'm Jewish and I don't eat Ham.  Should I never cook the Seniors ham( which they totally love?).  I also hate raw tomatoes, should I never include them in a salad?

Those examples are a bit different then a pot of soup. Raw vegetables in a salad don't require tasting if you're sure of the quality of the product. Actually, I don't consider that entirely true because knowing the sweetness/bitterness/acidity of the veg in question helps makes decisions as far as seasoning the dressing but I will agree that a raw tomato tastes like a raw tomato in a general sense and can go in a salad without taking a bite if you know it's a good tomato. Ham on it's own doesn't generally require tasting for seasoning, I've never had an under-salted ham (but if it was in a casserole or something then it might).

I actually think I'm a pretty darn good cook, because I can prepare foods that I hate/avoid and they turn out pretty damn good!!

I don't doubt that and didn't mean to imply otherwise. I honestly think you're doing a great job in a tough situation with the budget and restrictions they put on you. I just have a pet peeve about cooks refusing to taste what they cook. I realize that's my problem, not yours. I'll try to keep my opinions in my own kitchen from now on. :biggrin:

Edited by Tri2Cook (log)

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I gotta stand up for Randi, here... I detest eggs, but I make the best omelets around. You know your ingredients, know how they react, what they do, and you're halfway there. Substitute taste for sound, sight, texture. Knack, experience, knowledge, skill, and kitchen magic bring it all home.

I wouldn't deliberately eat a mushroom with a gun pointed at me, but I've been making them for as long as I've been cooking...you read enough recipes, get enough honest educated opinions while you're cooking, it just comes together.

I'm certain she knows how much salt to put in a quantity of liquid to make it taste right, whatever's floating in it.

By the way, I've been reading this thread from day one, and I'm pretty impressed at how you pull it all together. I've had to cook for large groups of fussy, sometimes bitchy people before, and I know it's tough.

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One lady said " I could just cry because there is no potatoes and gravy"  I said " You have stuffing" and she said " where" and I pointed to the bowl and she said " with corn in it?  and I said " Yep".

Another lady said " This is an exceptional meal".

Sigh. The woes and joys ... :laugh: My Mr. E has made comments similar to Lady #1 on a number of occasions. In E's case, at least, I realize there's often certain cognitive issues involved ... but it can still be pretty maddening.

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I gotta stand up for Randi, here... 

I'm not attacking her, I said quite clearly in both posts that it's just a pet peeve/personal opinion of mine. I agree (and stated) that she is doing a great job in a tough situation. I thought this was a discussion thread, I apologize for not realizing it was a "pat the person on the back or don't post at all" thread. I'll stay out of it from now on. :biggrin:

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Actually, after writing that, I looked it over and thought I should rephrase.

But, what I mean is, in a nutshell, it's perfectly possible to cook great food without ever tasting it, if you know what you're doing.

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Actually, after writing that, I looked it over and thought I should rephrase.

But, what I mean is, in a nutshell, it's perfectly possible to cook great food without ever tasting it, if you know what you're doing.

Thanks Lilija!!

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I gotta stand up for Randi, here... 

I'm not attacking her, I said quite clearly in both posts that it's just a pet peeve/personal opinion of mine. I agree (and stated) that she is doing a great job in a tough situation. I thought this was a discussion thread, I apologize for not realizing it was a "pat the person on the back or don't post at all" thread. I'll stay out of it from now on. :biggrin:

If I may insert my 2¢ (C 2.0276¢) here...

Having been an active eG participant going on five years, I have several issues with its current incarnation. However, one of the things I always have appreciated is the emphasis on (and, occasionally, enforcement of) civilized dialogue, an all-too-rare quality for online discussion forums.

Obviously you were aware (you said as much) that your original post would probably be perceived as offensive. I'm sorry, but a preface of "I've never been the king of tact"; a claim of being an "asshole"; and "Hope it doesn't make you hate me" doesn't in and of itself make the subsequent comments any more civilized, and therefore does nothing to lessen their impact. Nor does the later snarky comment, "I thought this was a discussion thread..." Of course this is a discussion, but an effective discussion process entails expressing oneself in such a way that one's thoughts and opinions are heard as intended.

That said, there's really no need for you to "keep my opinions in my own kitchen." However, instead of making excuses for a deficiency of tact, might you take an extra few minutes before you post to consider how you can get your point across without it being perceived as an attack? Pet peeves are normal, certainly, and you raised an intriguing question. Perhaps it would have been more effective, though, to ask Randi something like, "How do you know that something tastes right without tasting it yourself?"

Actually, now that I know that Randi sometimes tastes and spits, I'd like to ask her a question: Do you ever say to yourself, "Wow, this is good! I wish I still ate meat?"

(edited for phrasing)

Edited by Alex (log)

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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Actually, now that I know that Randi sometimes tastes and spits, I'd like to ask her a question: Do you ever say to yourself, "Wow, this is good! I wish I still ate meat?"

I'm glad you asked that Alex, because although I havent eaten red meat in 20+ years, I *accidentally* ingested some at The Common Grill in February.

Robin and I went for a belated Vday dinner. I ordered a mixed grill platter. The menu description said " grilled chicken, bacon wrapped shrimp and tenderloin. The menu item under that was a grilled pork tenderloin with some type of sauce. I guess since I saw the word tenderloin, I thought Pork( which I do eat on occasion). The server even asked me how I wanted the tenderloin cooked and I said 160F. She said, medium, well, rare, etc. Still, I just didnt even think tenderloin= beef. I remarked to Robin " no one has ever asked me how I wanted my pork cooked". Robin even thought Pork tenderloin when reading the menu.

Anyway, long story short, it came, I said to myself " wow, my pork tenderloin looks different". I ate a bite, than another( thinking wow, my pork sure tasted different too". Robin took a bite( she also hasnt eaten red meat in about 6 years). Robin said " this is beef". I said " No it isnt". She called the server over who said " yep, its beef tenderloin". By this point I was totally disgusted and I felt *dirty* for having eaten that. They removed the plate, brought me some more shrimp, but after that I couldnt eat.

So to answer your question. NO, NO and NO. I dont feel like I'm missing anything( unless of course you want to count all the antibiotics and hormones pumped into factory farmed animals).

And before someone makes a comment regarding chicken. I'm slowing weaning that from my diet too.

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I've been in your position and know this to be true.

Keep doing what you do...

your heart and soul are in it

the same clientele is the same clientele

opinions bring more opinions

sometimes clientele bring recipes

be seen and thanks always follows

-Jimmy

added to note

... Show me a pastry chef that tastes everything before finish, and I'll show you a charlatan.

Edited by JimmyWu (log)

Typos are Copyrighted @

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