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Cooking for 50 Senior Citizens


CaliPoutine
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Why do you keep cooking for them when according to you, all they do is complain...except when they don't as per your chicken parm?  Frankly, you're beginning to come off as a whiner.  People on this forum give you props and suggestions all of the time.  You take the props and then zero back to how ungrateful the oldsters are.  Quit if the job is so unsatisfying.

That's one person's opinion. Personally, I like reading about Randi's thought processes and planning, and then hearing what the results are. I don't find her to be whining at all -- just somewhat amazed by the highly variable outcome she receives. There isn't another thread like this on eGullet, and it's one of my favorites.

The posting the month of menus idea is a good one, but I don't know how well it would work. It seems that a couple of folks are going to complain no matter what -- example being the soup temperature. I hope your manager figures that out soon. She's been on the job how long now? Three months or so?

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I'd hardly call sausage and saurkraut an adventerous meal!!

They loved the chicken parm/pasta meal I prepared. They didnt complain about that.

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Why do you keep cooking for them when according to you, all they do is complain...except when they don't as per your chicken parm?  Frankly, you're beginning to come off as a whiner.  People on this forum give you props and suggestions all of the time.  You take the props and then zero back to how ungrateful the oldsters are.  Quit if the job is so unsatisfying.

I heartily disagree. This is about the ups and downs she has cooking for the seniors. Unfortunately for her, it seems to be a lot more downs than ups. This is a place for her to vent, get ideas and discuss.

Randi, I think it's great that you try new ideas and make new dishes for them. It seems that there are 3-4 constant complainers in your group. Marlene had a good idea about posting the menu in advance, but I can see where that might be hard because you shop and get what's on sale a lot. Maybe go through your menus and pick a rotation of the ones that they liked the best.

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Question Randi.  Do you post the menus in advance?  I wonder about posting a month's worth of menus in advance and letting the seniors comment on them.  At least that way too, they know what's on the menu and can choose to come or not to come.

No, I dont do that. I usually shop on the Monday before the meal. Unless of course I see meat on special for the freezer.

I have 3 meals worth of meat in the office freezer. The next meal is ham and scallopped potatoes. I also have bacon wrapped pork mediallions and cut up chicken.

Today I bought packages of Frieda's crepes on sale for .99( for 10 crepes). I'm going to fill them w/ bananas and nutella and vanilla ice cream. They never complain about my desserts.

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I'd hardly call sausage and saurkraut an adventerous meal!!

They loved the chicken parm/pasta meal I prepared. They didnt complain about that.

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Why do you keep cooking for them when according to you, all they do is complain...except when they don't as per your chicken parm?  Frankly, you're beginning to come off as a whiner.  People on this forum give you props and suggestions all of the time.  You take the props and then zero back to how ungrateful the oldsters are.  Quit if the job is so unsatisfying.

I'm coming of as a whiner? Give me a break. I've kept this thread going for over 2 yrs now, and in addition to posting pics and menus, I post feedback as well. If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all!!

I sometimes fill in for another cook( she cooks at the program in my town and another neighboring town). I NEVER get complaints from them. They've even asked for me to be their full-time cook. Different folks, different towns. I actually enjoy cooking for them because they appreciate it.

And, as I've said a few other times. When my law credentials from the US are evaluated here and I find out just what I need to do to practice in Ontario, I will be leaving that job. I live in a town of 4000ppl and there are NO jobs. I stick with this because its only 2x a month and because there is litterally nothing else that pays as well. I'm also begining to realize that its the same few who keep complaining and no matter what I do, it wont be good enough.

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I agree with Arey.  I've been reading this thread from the beginning and it is quite obvious that these clients are not adventerous eaters.  They want hearty food prepared simply.

If it were me, I would prepare the same five to seven meals:  Protein, starch, veg and LOTS of gravy and hot breads.  Pie, cake and ice creams for dessert.

I have a cookbook from the forties that would be perfect for them.  It has seasonal menus that rely on the above formula.

If you've read the thread, you'll see I do provide a protein, starch and veg!! And, for your info, they prefer pie to cake!!

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Hi Randi- I actually read through this entire thread today and let me say that you are doing an incredibly amazing job given this no-win situation. Frankly, I'm sure I would have gone "Norman Bates" on them by now. They truly do not deserve you and unfortunately, will probably come to that realization after about 2 months of the crappy meals served by your successor.

That said, obviously you ARE doing a good job or you would have been let go by now. Second, your supervisor is a doofus and clearly, she should be providing more (read any) support to you than you have received to date. Finally, the complainers are continuing to show up which speaks to the quality of your cooking. I wish I could eat your creations!

Good luck and hope your law credentials are approved soon!

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Randi, I think that you do a wonderful job.

I also think that there are people in this world that don't know how to be happy. If it is the same few people who keep complaining.....well, if they are the minority.....too bad.

Obviously you want to make people happy. Your co-ordinator should clue into the fact that its the same people and just try to smooth the way for you rather than allowing these people to dictate every meal.

I think that this thread is a great record of your successes. If you keep those successes in mind, then maybe it would be easier to predict future successes and do menu planning. Your passion for food and giving nature should be commended.

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Since you only cook for them twice a month, why don't you come up with six basic menus for the meat, potato and vegetables. Then get creative with the salads and deserts. No matter what you do, you're going to get complaints. I worked in a Social Security district office for over 34 years, and my aged mother lived with me for the last 10 years of her life (or as I think of them the lost 10 years of my life). People are going to complain. No matter how old , frail, and feeble they are, as long as they can make someone else unhappy, they can assure themselves that they haven't totally lost it.

"A fool", he said, "would have swallowed it". Samuel Johnson

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Today, 01:02 PM Post #618 

Here is an email I received today from the coordinator.

Thanks for staying for clean up it really helps to have another pair of hands. I know that this group has been very frustrating to both of us, but I do have to pass along their complaints so we try to get it right. I received calls again this morning concerning the meal. The soup was good, but not hot. Not everyone likes sauerkraut. The sausage wasn’t browned. The tomatoes this time of year are tasteless. And the meal in general was not hot. Those were the things I was told. I did give the sausage to my husband for supper and he thought it was good, but I did heat it uncovered and it was browned better. I was told by one caller that seniors want meat, mashed potatoes and gravy. I asked what about ham and scalloped potatoes and they thought it would be a good choice, so lets try that next time. Sorry if I am sounding a little negative, but I don’t know what to do to get a good response from this group. Lets just stick to the basics and try again

Hi Randi, got a question...why is your food going home for your supervisor's supper?

Your supervisor is a piece of work if she can't even support what you do, is there morale problem with her underlings; with that attitude, it wouldn't surprise me?

Oh, and that soup looks delicious!

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I'd hardly call sausage and saurkraut an adventerous meal!!  

But for many of the seniors, it just may be. It's already been established that they prefer rather bland food (pepper is too spicy for them :wacko: ), and sauerkraut can be very jarring to the taste buds of those who like bland. It's not spicy, but the tartness can be overwhelming (I hate sauerkraut and most tart foods).

They loved the chicken parm/pasta meal I prepared.  They didnt complain about that.  

I've been emailed the coordinator back and forth this afternoon.  She acknowladged that I go out of my way for these folks.  She also said she was just passing on the complaints.  I wish she would just have my back instead of entertaining these folks by listening to their complaints.   Why do they continue to come back if they dont like what I cook?

I thought her e-mail was quite courteous, actually. She tried to handle the situation delicately without putting blame on anyone (note the lack of "you" in her e-mail, as in no "you didn't" or "you should". She merely stated what the perceived problems were without laying blame).

As for the complaints, themselves, not liking sauerkraut is the only complaint that I wouldn't take seriously, and probably would not have even mentioned were I the co-ordinator. Not everyone likes everything, too bad if you don't like one dish that was being served that day. The sausage not being browned may be another stupid point--that's mostly about aesthetics, not about the food, itself (but I admit grey sausage turns me off, and browned sausage may taste a little better, but would it really make that much of a difference?). The other things mentioned, however, were pretty valid--food's not hot, tomatoes are flavourless...those are reasonable, in my opinion.

Were I the co-ordinator, however, I'd be keeping track of who is making the complaints. They say for everyone one verbalized complaint, there are a hundred more non-verbalized ones, so even one complaint has be investigated and be taken seriously. That being said, if it's the same people complaining all the time, then as a co-ordinator, I would start to discount them at least a little, and at some point, I'd probably just tell them off (in a nice way, of course). That could be something to suggest to her. She does have to listen to them, though. It's not like she's listening to them just to pass the time (or to give them something to do to help pass their time). It's part of her job.

I like annabelle's (and Arey's) idea of serving the same 6-7 meals in rotation. It's what most of them want, so give it to them. Or have 6 basic meat preparations, and six basic starch preparations, with the same number of side dishes and desserts. Then mix and match as you see fit, based on what's in your freezer and what's on sale that week. By mixing and matching you won't have the exact same meal every time, but you'll be giving them the consistency they seem to want. It's all about wants and needs--as the clients, they can dictate what they want and need, and it's up to you (or the co-ordinator) to try to meet those wants and needs.

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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Today, 01:02 PM Post #618 

Here is an email I received today from the coordinator.

Thanks for staying for clean up it really helps to have another pair of hands. I know that this group has been very frustrating to both of us, but I do have to pass along their complaints so we try to get it right. I received calls again this morning concerning the meal. The soup was good, but not hot. Not everyone likes sauerkraut. The sausage wasn’t browned. The tomatoes this time of year are tasteless. And the meal in general was not hot. Those were the things I was told. I did give the sausage to my husband for supper and he thought it was good, but I did heat it uncovered and it was browned better. I was told by one caller that seniors want meat, mashed potatoes and gravy. I asked what about ham and scalloped potatoes and they thought it would be a good choice, so lets try that next time. Sorry if I am sounding a little negative, but I don’t know what to do to get a good response from this group. Lets just stick to the basics and try again

Hi Randi, got a question...why is your food going home for your supervisor's supper?

Your supervisor is a piece of work if she can't even support what you do, is there morale problem with her underlings; with that attitude, it wouldn't surprise me?

Oh, and that soup looks delicious!

I wondered that too. She told me she was bringing them back to the office to freezer. She said she was going to save them for a grilled sausage lunch they were having. I questioned whether already frozen meat could be refrozen and she said it could. I guess she didnt feel like cooking dinner that night.

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I thought her e-mail was quite courteous, actually. She tried to handle the situation delicately without putting blame on anyone (note the lack of "you" in her e-mail, as in no "you didn't" or "you should". She merely stated what the perceived problems were without laying blame).

You didnt see the rest of her emails. This was the last one which I chose not to answer. I think my real problem is not the complaints, but her lack of "supporting me". Its the same ppl who complain each time. I saw her go over to the table and ask them how everything was. I heard the same two ladies say the soup wasnt hot. The supervisor came into the kitchen and said " I shouldnt have asked". She is also taking this personally( like the complaints are an afront to her). I know I'm a damned good cook and I know how hard I try. I obviously can't make a roast that they're going to eat so I'm not going to try that again. I've made mashed potatoes the last few months. First, I got complaints that I wasnt serving potatoes and now I get a complaint that its not a MASHED potato. They just want something to complain about!!

I asked her if she thought I shouldnt make the other meals I have frozen. She said this.

No, the pork medallions and the chicken are fine. I think they will go over great! I know that you are very defensive when I pass on criticism, and I understand that. You feel like it is a direct blow to you, but remember it is also a blow to me. This is my program. The very first thing that I was given in a new job to look after on my own and I am totally frustrated. I have told the girls here that I would take any other job (even 10 other jobs) if someone wanted to look after Grand Bend. So far I have had no takers so I guess we just keep trying.

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Randi, really, if you can't bitch to us about it, where can you bitch? We know you're doing the best you can, you know you're doing the best you can. Money's money, and it's only two times a month. The worst thing, really, is that your supervisor is so not on the same page.

That might be the most ridiculous, nitpicky, and formulaic email I've ever seen... <start with a compliment, don't use any "you" language", stay courteous> I like how she uses the word "we" and "lets". Did she cook any of this? May as well come directly from some PR form letter. I'm frustrated in the third person, honestly.

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No, the pork medallions and the chicken are fine.  I think they will go over great!  I know that you are very defensive when I pass on criticism, and I understand that.  You feel like it is a direct blow to you, but remember it is also a blow to me.  This is my program.  The very first thing that I was given in a new job to look after on my own and I am totally frustrated.  I have told the girls here that I would take any other job (even 10 other jobs) if someone wanted to look after Grand Bend.  So far I have had no takers so I guess we just keep trying.

She wants out, too? That's a bad, bad sign!

She knows there is a very small minority that always complains--nothing will ever be good enough for them. Why doesn't isn't she willing to take a stand against them? She's going to have to learn how to twist the negatives--if they say, "The soup is too cold," then she could say, "It's difficult to serve it piping hot in these circumstances, but it's kept as hot as possible," and then she could ask, "Do you have any suggestions for how to keep it hotter?" At least it will make them think about if their complaints are reasonable or not (by reasonable, I mean if something could actually be done about them).

But for some people, nothing will ever be good enough. I've said it before, but I still think you should give them exactly what they want, then when they start really enjoying your meals (as much as they could possibly enjoy anything), then stick it to them and quit. Then they'll realize what a good thing they had (actually, they probably won't, but they'll probably complain even more about the next person).

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Randi, really, if you can't bitch to us about it, where can you bitch?  We know you're doing the best you can, you know you're doing the best you can.  Money's money, and it's only two times a month.  The worst thing, really, is that your supervisor is so not on the same page.   

That might be the most ridiculous, nitpicky, and formulaic email I've ever seen...  <start with a compliment, don't use any "you" language", stay courteous> I like how she uses the word "we" and "lets".  Did she cook any of this? May as well come directly from some PR form letter.  I'm frustrated in the third person, honestly.

What Lilija said.

I wish that you could post the menus ahead of time - great idea- but with having to budget like you do (another thing that no one there seems to appreciate), you have to grab bargains when you can. You'd end up changing the menu at the last moment and pissing them off even more.

We all have had the experience of cooking for people who don't really appreciate what we serve them, but at least with most of us, we are cooking for those who love us otherwise and appreciate US if not our food. Your situation is more difficult because you are cooking for virtual strangers. Vent all you want - I don't hear any whining. I hear frustration and a desire to please people AND do a good job. An almost impossible task, it seems, with these folks. I sometimes wonder if someone who is really 'into' food is even the right person to cook institutional food. We've talked before on other threads about how awful that kind of food can be and wondering why it can't be better, but I don't know if the people who actually eat it care very often. I know that when Mr. Kim's grandparents went into assisted living, everyone in the family talked about how great the food was. It.was.not. It was bland, overcooked, glop. Somewhere on eG, it was mentioned that all of us should arrange to go to the same old folks home - THAT would be some good institutional food :biggrin: !

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Randi, this thread is one of my favorites. It is a real primer on cooking for others, cooking for the elderly, and cooking on a budget.

It also paints an unsparing picture of the drama, pathos and existential despair that is all too familiar to many of us with elderly parents. So thanks. And keep bitching!

nibor

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I admire you for wanting to give your best effort to the senior citizens, and it's definitely okay to let off some steam in here. However, at this point it seems it's time to decide who you're trying to please -- your tastes or the tastes of the senior citizens you're paid to cook for. For your happiness and contentment, maybe you've gone as far as you can here and need to find a new outlet -- one that will allow you to experiment and do creative foods more diverse than this setting.

Edited by PopsicleToze (log)
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I will be leaving that job.  I live in a town of 4000ppl and there are NO jobs.  I stick with this because its only 2x a month and because there is litterally nothing else that pays as well.

You're doing an admirable job Cali, but your quote says it all.

It's why you could make it so much easier on yourself by just giving them what they want ....meat (well done, but tender) mashed potatoes & gravy, simple/familiar vegetables & your lovely desserts.

Then the complainers as well as the non-complainers will be happy. You? Maybe not so much, but at least you won't need to put up with all the whining while waiting to practice law.

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I'm grateful that the 100+ guests at our meal program are a bit more adventurous when it comes to food. Mind you, the Community Meal is free. We started our program up again this week, too, after a break for the entire month of December.

Food budget is currently $3 per person (i.e., $300 per week), which I can allocate throughout the year; I've applied for an increase to $3.25. There are a few food service suppliers who will deliver small orders, so if I order 2 weeks of supplies at a time, we can have delivery. The finance committee has just approved the purchase of one more upright freezer, and a commercial microwave. Hurray!

This week's menu was: vegetable minestrone, beef stew, rice, broccoli, romaine & blood orange salad w/ yogurt-citrus vinagrette, gerkins, rolls, and jello w/ fruit cocktail & blueberries. The soup used up several bags of frozen vegetables from the Community Farm which grows a lot of our produce. Now that it's "winter", our fresh produce is mostly imported (bah!).

If it wasn't for the volunteers who help each week with executing the menu for the Meal program, I would not be able to keep this job.

Karen Dar Woon

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I simply can't do beef every meal. Its not in the budget. In order for me to make my budget, I have to buy meat that is 1.99-2.49lb. They'll complain if its ground beef as well. Pork is the cheapest meat availble here which is why they're having ham next time.

If you look back thru my meals, you'll see that they're getting meat and potatoes each time. It might not be beef, but they are getting protein.

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I think you do a great job in difficult circumstances.

I have a suggestion, I don't know wether it would work - but it may be worth a go. Why don't you ask people what they want - OK - I don't mean cooking them exactly what they as for - but what about some sort of survey at your next meal.

Ask people what their favourite dishes are, or get them to vote from a set of favourites - and once - cook them what they ask for - at least then you can't be held to blame, and you're giving them what they as for.

Sometimes, if you have persistent complainers, it can be beneficial to turn it on its head and ask them what they would do if they were in your shoes - ask for their advice. Yes, it sounds a little spooky - but getting these difficult people involved, may bring them more on to your side and perhaps appreciate you more. (Although you'll never please them all the time).

The next time your complainers kick in, get your supervisor to tell you - and go and talk to them - don't ask them to justify what they've complained about, or apologise, just ask them for their advice. It's a sneaky thing I suppose and to them it may look like your are pandering to their needs - but actually your just trying to get them on your side.

You may think it's a load of pants (I mean UK pants, not US pants - there's a difference ! :) )

...but it may be worth a try.

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Oh the complaints just bring back memories of my mother. She would complain non-stop in the grocery store, isle after isle, nothing seemed to please her, so I stopped and confronted her (quietly of course) about her attitude towards our errands.

Her response made me realize there was never anything I could do to turn her view around - "Well, I am not happy unless I have something to complain about!"

Suddenly, I realized she was having a good day and soon began to tease her about "having a good day today"! Honestly, I now notice this with many people that some people really look at the world with a slanted view.

To be doing something you love and honestly putting your best effort into it, because it it what you love to do is something these people have lost sight of.

Now when I hear the constant complaining that some people do I hear my mothers words and look at the situation.....Is it really something I can fix? Or are they having their own "Good Day". I really feel sorry for them now that they feel the need to bring everyone down with them, and really try to not go there with them.

Have a great day!!!! Honestly!

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I have a suggestion, I don't know wether it would work - but it may be worth a go. Why don't you ask people what they want - OK - I don't mean cooking them exactly what they as for - but what about some sort of survey at your next meal.

We did that a few months back. I posted the survey results somewhere upthread.

eta: Here they are. As you can see, Roast Beef is the most popular. Only 1 person named Ham as a favorite, which is what they're having next time. I think a lot of ppl didnt even fill out the survey.

SURVEY RESULTS

FAVOURITE MEAL

Roast Beef – 20

Chicken – 17

Roast Pork – 11

Sausage – 3

Roast Turkey – 3

Meat Loaf – 3

Ham – 2

Stew – 2

Pork Chops – 1

Chinese – 1

Lasagna – 1

Cabbage Rolls – 1

Chicken Fingers – 1

Liver – 1

Best Meal:

Roast Beef Dinner with all the trimmings – 10 – (2 great comments on your last beef meal)

Roast Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings – 5

Honey Garlic Sausage – 1

Chinese – 1

Chicken Legs – 1

Steak – 1

BUFFET STYLE MEALS:

Yes – 14

No - 11

Edited by CaliPoutine (log)
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I suggest Randy you conduct a little experiment with these seniors. Write them a letter asking them for help solving a problem. Ask them to feed 40 people using the budget you have and for them to use the local newspaper adds to purchase the ingredients. Ask them as part of the exercise to use their favourite recipes to cook the dishes for their sample menu and ask them to submit their costs and recipes. Explain that those whose sample menus meet budget costs you will cook for them as detailed. Perhaps this will keep them busy and may prevent the complainers from complaining and also more importantly give them a stake in what you cook for them as it will indeed reflect their tastes.

"Flay your Suffolk bought-this-morning sole with organic hand-cracked pepper and blasted salt. Thrill each side for four minutes at torchmark haut. Interrogate a lemon. Embarrass any tough roots from the samphire. Then bamboozle till it's al dente with that certain je ne sais quoi."

Arabella Weir as Minty Marchmont - Posh Nosh

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