A Beautiful TedTalk and My Job as a Hospice Hot Lunch Cook
Lately I've been watching a lot of talks on YouTube. Many of them are geared towards helping people sort themselves out and make sense of things.
This brilliant TedTalk showed up as one of YouTube's suggested videos.
I gave it a watch, and am I ever glad for it. It's simply beautiful. I won't give it away, though I encourage you to listen to the end. The speaker is filled with kindness, and the deep kind of wisdom that comes with surviving trauma. It's a beautiful talk.
In watching, I was reminded of a short time in my life that I'd almost forgotten about.
When my daughter was a little over a year old, I worked as a lunch cook at a hospice. I had a friend in pre-med school who was a volunteer at the hospice that spring. He encouraged me to apply for the job. But, I didn't think I could do it. I didn't have any formal training as a cook. I had never before worked as a cook. I was already working as a music teacher in the evenings. I didn't even have a car.
But, I liked cooking. So I applied for the job, and (I think because they were desperate for someone) I got it.
It was quite the experience for me. Early in the morning, I would leave my daughter with my mom, and ride my bike up to the hospice. I would meet with my manager and get a count for how many would be at lunch. Next, I would look at the groceries on hand, brainstorm a menu with my manager, and get to work.
There wasn't much time... or it felt that way. There must have been between 2-3 hours to prepare a hot meal from scratch. But I loved the challenge of whipping things up and having it come together on time. (Or mostly together, mostly on time, is more likely how it was, haha.)
I loved how the energy and temperature of the large industrial kitchen would change as things got cooking and baking. I always made a batch of cookies or a cake for dessert. I loved getting the platters ready for the volunteers to take to the dining hall. Once in awhile, a volunteer or two would keep me company while I worked. Sometimes offering to help. It was such a cozy and friendly space, that kitchen.
While I was cleaning up, I'd plan the next day's menu. My manager would usually check in with me at this time. She'd give me feedback on how lunch went over. I remember the kindness in her eyes and thinking what a gentle and brave person she must be to do the job she does. I didn't get to meet any of the patients, but I came to know some of their likes and dislikes, foods-wise, anyhow. I remember that my egg salad wasn't such a big hit, haha.
Once the kitchen was cleaned and everything was put away, I'd hop on my bike and pedal fast to get home quick to my little girl. Sometimes if there were leftovers, I would bring them home to share with her and my mom.
Unfortunately, I didn't have the job for long — I think only a few months. It wasn't easy to manage both jobs once September rolled around and I began teaching music again. I do remember that I was still there for Thanksgiving, though, because I remember preparing those meals.
I had made roast chickens with stuffing and gravy, and all the fixings. And for dessert, a pumpkin cake that I still enjoy making in the autumn. I think it was my most challenging meal and I remember that I had to make it twice! Either later the same day or the very next day...I can't quite remember. All I remember is that there were two meals for Thanksgiving, to accommodate all of the patients, staff and volunteers. I remember how unusual it was to make the same big meal two times in such a short span.
I found such great joy in this job. I poured as much care as I could into those meals. I look back and wonder how I had the audacity to take it on. I think I was just so very desperate to do whatever "right" things I could do at that time. And, desperate to keep on moving. I still feel that same desperation at times.
Anyhow. It's this beautiful video that reminded me of that short time in my life and compelled me to share. I want to listen to this talk again and take careful notes. I hope that you enjoy it.