Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rubber Gloves, Hairnets and Puree

After sitting around at home being bored out of my mind for a few weeks, I finally started my foodservice internship placement! I'm working at a long-term care facility in the West end of Toronto for ten weeks, and then moving on to my clinical placement in September.

So far my placement is awesome. My supervisor is pretty chill but has been in the business for a really long time so I've been learning a lot from him, and the rest of the staff have been great. They laugh at me a lot as I attempt to do things as efficiently as they have learned to do everything but they're always willing to help me out which is nice, specially considering how many questions I ask them all every day about policies and procedures and the tasks they do on a daily basis.

The first two weeks of my placement were dedicated to learning the jobs of the Dietary Aids, who serve the meals to the residents, wash dishes, and make sure the serveries on each floor are fully stocked with the copious amounts of prune juice, high energy-high protein milk and bran muffins that are requested by and prescribed to the residents for meals and snacks. I must admit...I washed A LOT of dishes over the last few weeks! I don't really mind washing dishes, but with about a quarter of the 128 residents on pureed diets, it makes for a very messy clean-up. It's Ministry policy that the foods that get pureed and served to those residents requiring that texture are exactly the same as what the residents eating normally textured foods get which means we literally just put the food we are serving in a fancy food processor (the Blixer-6V). This includes bread since toast is served for breakfast. I never thought I'd be scooping up and serving bread with an ice-cream scoop, and I really hope I never have to eat it.
The Dietary Aide uniform includes an apron, a fabulous giant white hairnet and big thick green rubber gloves when washing dishes. There was a bit of a learning curve when I came to washing dishes...there is a big sprayer to spray and pre-wash the dishes with before they go through the dish machine. The sprayer works by using very hot water with a lot of pressure to scrap the food of the dishes. The pressure is so high that it ends up spraying everywhere and if you're not careful when spraying bowls and cutlery, you get a face full of whatever it is you're attempting to spray off the dish. I learned this the hard way when on my first day I ended up with an eye full of pureed tuna salad sandwich which left me blinded for a few minutes and severely wanting a shower for the rest of the day.

The residents are actually hilarious. Most of them are fairly healthy compared to the typical long term care resident and are more than happy to tell me stories about their lives. One resident used to be a model and was telling me all about her career and it's ultimate demise and her stint in rehab. Another resident used to work for the royal family and always has a story to tell me over breakfast. The residents are also always happy to tell me what the kitchen is doing wrong, how their food should be prepared and what they should be served. There is a Food Committee consisting of a handful of residents and I went to their monthly meeting last week. The only people that showed up are the ones with nothing good to say about the food and the ones who love the food. Since January, when my supervisor took over the kitchen, resident satisfaction has gone up about 20% to almost 90% satisfaction rates. Despite this, there are still a few very vocal residents who seem to think we're doing nothing right. Somehow, in the middle of the meeting, the group got side-tracked and since they were mostly women, started talking about how unfortunate it was that almost all of the men in the building were married. They suggested that the home should start a dating club so that all the single people in the building could get together and meet one another. I guess the food can't be THAT bad if their main concern is finding a date.

So much happens everyday that I've been making notes and meaning to blog on a daily basis about the day to day workings of a longterm care facility kitchen but I have yet to get a round to it. I have only had an ipad for internet this past week and for another week which makes it hard to post. I joined a Half Marathon Running Clinic, have taken up road biking, its war canoe season and I've been working part time so things have been a bit crazy since I have yet to settle into a regular routine. I'm hoping to post almost daily now that I'm interning and will catch up on my intern adventures soon so stay tuned!

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