The kitchen is missing!
What is is about the Kitchen? It pulls us in like a magnet, to cry, to dance, to talk, to come together as family, friends, and community. Growing up it is the place for homework, helping Mom decorate Christmas cookies while also trying to sneak one behind her back. It is the place you get shooed out of, being told to, “get out of my triangle!” while Mom and Dad are preparing dinner or a holiday meal. It is also the place you are welcomed into and shown how to cook and you learn about food and how to prepare a meal. It is the gathering place when company comes over. It is the place for dancing and games, cries and laughter so hard your stomach hurts. The kitchen, while it’s primary purpose is to prepare food, it ends up doing so much more than helping us nourish our bodies, it also nourishes and heals the soul.
I understand the health and safety concerns as to why there is not a kitchen for the residents of care communities, some only having a kitchenette type set up, but these kitchenettes are far from the warmth we have come to seek in our home. They are frequently cold, a place where it is more about what can’t be done than what can be done. It turns into the place where aids come to gather to listen to their own music or complain about the day and gossip. We have failed to make our care community kitchens/dining areas a place of home and failed to create a new space that does what our kitchens have done for us over the course of our lives. Can we change this? Can we find ways to work with the health and safety regulations while also restoring the warmth and nucleus of our home? Is there a way to start now?
Food and sharing a meal together in conversation and connection is a major part of becoming relational with one another and I wonder if we are going about it all wrong. It is clear that our community rooms are not the “new kitchen” in our care communities. I cannot go a day without hearing about how bad the food is or how the menu rarely serves what they are hungry for, yet we have food all the time. Programs revolve around serving food, but never the right kind. There are sweets or cheese and crackers. There are quick breads or party mixes. There are ice cream socials or fruit trays. But we are missing something because residents, visitors, and staff are still hungry. Do we think that serving food at a program helps build connection and replaces what the kitchen once became for us? Or are we missing something that often partners the food? The emotional memories of dishes and flavors, combined with real conversations and connection. The physical nourishment with the spiritual nourishment. Are we doing something to cultivate real community? Are we truly seeing those we serve each day? Are we listening?
How can we create a new kitchen, a place of warmth, connection, and nourishment?