The fountain of youth has long been fantasized about and sought after; so has buried treasure. I however, pursue the perfect menu and just like the mystical and enchanting fables, it simply does not exist. But just because it doesn’t exist does not mean I won’t try to find it anyway.
To date I have written somewhere around 1000 menus, and here is what I have learned:
- Everyone values different things about a nursing home menu: Owners want to control costs and meet state regulations. Employees want something quick and easy to fix. Chefs want freedom to create. Dietitians want to ensure daily values and that therapeutic diet needs are met. Food vendors want menus to suit and sell their product. Residents want control of their lives and food despite dietary restrictions.
- Everyone has a different tastes and religious limitations: Spicy or sweet, ketchup or mustard, chicken or pork, spinach or romaine, pasta or rice, mushrooms or olives…?
- Demographics play a major role: The South loves greens and beans; the West and Midwest love meat and potatoes. Younger generations like pasta; older generations like potatoes.
- Facility type matters: I write a menu differently for an Independent Living community vs. a Memory Care unit.
- Larger facilities cannot produce some things in large quantity and need menus that meet production needs. (Can you imagine making homemade ravioli for 200 people?!) While smaller facilities can cater to individual resident needs, they often struggle to find a caretaker who has the time and talent to cook well.
- Cooking abilities differ greatly: Some people have the “Midas Touch” while others can’t or don’t know how to boil water. If I gave the same recipe to 100 people, I would get 100 different results. Of course the bad results would be blamed on a bad recipe.
- A recipe generates feedback across the board: Some will love it, some will hate it.
- Many facilities want fancy menus and chefs to attract clientele, but residents may simply want foods with names they can pronounce and understand: “I’d like the vichyssoise please?”
Though menu writing is difficult and sometimes daunting, it is a worthy and rewarding quest to be pursued. Now where is my GPS…I mean Nutrition Guide?