Second Thoughts About Not Cooking – a Tale from Our Continuing Care Retirement Community

One reason
I’d wanted to move into my continuing care retirement community was to stop
cooking dinner. I’d grown tired of planning meals, dashing to the supermarket
for missing ingredients, and cleaning up the kitchen afterward.

In the
years before my husband’s Parkinson’s disease worsened, he’d done the dishes. But
for the 18 months before we moved, the kitchen work had been all mine. I’d wanted
someone else to take over.

The Food Plan

community has two eating places, a dining room with cloth-covered tables where
waiters serve a plated dinner, and an informal bistro where you can grab a
burger anytime. Both restaurants stop seating people at seven o’clock, which is
much earlier than we had been accustomed to, but okay.

Tom and I
each receive 388 food points a month to use however we choose. That’s enough
for one full meal a day, with wine, and then some. So far, we haven’t run out
of points at the end of the month, and we’ve invited guests regularly.

hasn’t been a problem. Quality? A slightly different story.

Something Was Missing

from all over the menu, we discovered some dishes were quite good, some were
just good, and some were awful. There was a lot of repetition. I soon grew
tired of potatoes and noodles and breaded cutlets.

I missed
the quinoa, ethnic food, and exotic veggies I used to enjoy. One Sunday we
didn’t go to the restaurant; I dragged out the wok I had insisted on keeping when
we moved into our apartment and cooked Chinese style.

I did so
the following week. Then I prepared others of our old favorites: rack of lamb
and bison burgers. Each time the smell of spices and rendering meat permeated our
apartment. Not anticipated, but delicious.

enthusiasm for flavor soon gave way, however, partly because I hated going to a
new supermarket to get ingredients – I didn’t
know where to find things – and partly
out of pique. We were paying for meals and I wanted my money’s worth.

I decided
to adapt to the menu by bringing my own quinoa to the dining room. And
scallions and pumpkin seeds to sprinkle on top. Then I noticed another woman was
improving the fare.

brought a baggie full of spices with her to the table. Like me, she must have
wanted to enjoy the taste of home in the place she now called home.

The Game People Play

More people
took things away from the table than
brought things to it, though. I soon noticed
that people ordered their soup “to go” so they could take it to their apartment
for lunch the next day. Other people filled plastic containers with a second
helping from the salad bar to serve as the base for another meal.

people ordered double veggies and a doggie bag along with their entrée. Taking
cookies and deserts home to nibble in front of the TV seemed to be standard
operating procedure.

The waiters
patiently packaged all the take-out requests. Clearly, residents didn’t want
food, or points, to go to waste. I don’t like waste either, but it seemed to me
that the take-out game would require brainwork I no longer wanted to expend.

Would I Play?

In the
end, it came down to energy. I had to prioritize my husband’s care and my own
health, which includes writing and maintaining our athletic dog’s lifestyle,
over the extra brainwork the dining game would require.

But adding
flavor or jicama to an ordinary dish? That was an acceptable expenditure of
energy. So was taking home anything I got too full to eat.

I decided
it was okay to dedicate a little bit of bandwidth to making meals a little bit
more enjoyable. I overcame my second thoughts, especially when I saw how often
my husband spilled soup on the tablecloth. Someone else cleaned up after him,
with a smile.

Not all CCRC’s run their meal plans in the same way. Make sure to find
out how meals are handled in the CCRC that interests you. Please do contact me
if you want more detail.

How often do you cook at home? Do you
sometimes find it tedious? Why? Do you think you could get used to food cooked
by others? Please share with our community.