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What’s Cooking? Tasty Holiday Traditions at our Long Term Care and Rehabilitation Center Make Lasting Memories

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December 3, 2021

As the holiday season envelopes us, we are reminded of the closely held traditions and celebrations that are so meaningful to us. And while we are not quite back to the way things were before the pandemic, we DO have so much to be thankful for.

Because of COVID restrictions, last year our residents had to enjoy their holiday meals in their rooms. Now our dining rooms are open, families are back to visiting and residents are so grateful to see their loved ones regularly. And while we are still not able to open for family dining, we did plan a bountiful Thanksgiving feast for our residents.

We put a lot of thought and care into planning our menus and this is especially true during the holidays. Regular dining meetings with our residents help us to stay tuned in to the food and nutrition interests of those we serve. In recent meetings I asked what they would like included on our holiday menus that would make things more special for them.

For Thanksgiving, our offerings included their requests and more. . .

Our menu included Appetizers (fresh fruit cup, deviled eggs, and sliced Havarti cheese served with crackers); the Main Event (oven roasted turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, seasoned butternut squash, cranberry sauce, warm rolls and butter); the Alternative Choice (pumpkin ravioli with sage butter sauce and green bean casserole); the Bubbly (sparkling grape juice); and Pies (pumpkin, deep dish apple and mincemeat).

For our evening meal, we offered a typical menu selection but the vast majority of our residents voiced their sound preference for Thanksgiving leftovers! We served many traditional turkey sandwiches with all the fixings on sourdough bread. It was heartwarming to know how much this meant to our residents—a simple thing, leftovers! On Thanksgiving Day so many of us look forward to this enjoyable evening treat. We also served a slice of pumpkin cream cheese roll as a special “sweet.”

FOOD FOR THOUGHT – at a recent morning staff team meeting, we were asked to share what our favorite pie choice was; and at a later meeting we were asked if we got to enjoy that special piece of pie on the holiday. This exercise brought me back to a class I enjoyed in culinary school. The role food has in our life. Our relationship with food is truly unique (although it is a basic need, it sits on an emotional level). Our quality of life is enhanced by the meals we enjoy. Food is “love.” Preparing and sharing food with people we love solidifies our connection with them. Food is “memory.” Because we attach emotional importance to food it often becomes an important part of our memories. Food is “identity.” It is a way for many of us to connect to our heritage and our own cultural identity.

Whether we are in our own home, a different setting, or have moved half way around the world; the foods we are accustomed to soothe us.

The holiday season is marked with family celebrations around the table. The food or meal becomes personal. The attachments to our traditions have a lot to do with who we are and how we feel about ourselves.

I invite you to feel free to let me know about your special traditions or recipes. I will share your comments in our dining meetings. I know this will open up conversations and spark memories. These meetings are a highlight for staff and residents alike, and a way to come up with new ideas of creative things we can add to our menus.

I look forward to your thoughts!

Arlene Vaillancourt
Director of Food and Nutrition Services
Notre Dame Long Term Care and Rehabilitation Center