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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Of Food Committees and Cannibalism

THE ALL-IMPORTANT FOOD COMMITTEE met today for the first time since the great Shoot Out at the O-K Corral (i.e. when Mike the Chef quit and Sal the manager was fired). In attendance were Ms. DeAnna Alfonso, new Chef Mike McLoughlin and new Manager Margie Sheehan for Sodexo, with Ms. Nancy Kleppel representing employees, Br. Tom Hickey representing the Assisted Living community and Yours Truly, representing the Maryknoll community but most likely just because I like food.

The results of the July 09 Food Survey were discussed and most of the recommendations have already been implemented. Cheese Croquettes and Chicken Portuguese Style have been dropped from the menu but Tempura Shrimp got a resounding thumbs up. No-caffeine herbal teas are now available. Low sodium foods are being offered. Luncheon meats in the different kitchenettes will be discarded in a timely manner. (Note to Maryknollers: If the sliced turkey in the fridge looks slimy, greyish and smells, that's a pretty good indication it is no longer tasty.)

Believe it or not, several people requested kimchi be a permanent offering in the condiments bar and no, it wasn't my idea. That particular Korean side dish went over amazingly well at the Chu Seok festival sponsored by our Wellness Initiative two weeks ago.

ONE COMMUNAL ADMONITION: The kitchen staff asks that no one enter the food line when the doors are closed. That is when the staff is busiest setting out pans of boiling water to keep the entrees warm. They are bustling about and we get in their way. The floor is also newly mopped and slippery. So please, guys, when you see the kitchen door closed, do not enter the buffet line, especially from the back where there is no door to close. Violators would do well to heed the following story:

Nancy Kleppel, our Center Coordinator, revealed she is related to one Owen Coffin, a 17-year-old whaler from Nantucket whose boat was rammed by a whale in 1820. The survivors were adrift at sea off the coast of South America for three months. To survive, the mariners resorted to cannibalism, first eating those who had died but when that food source ran out, deciding to draw straws to choose whom to sacrifice and eat. Owen drew the short straw. Only five men survived to tell their tale. Their story is retold in the book In The Heart of the Sea, The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathanial Philbrick (Vicking Press) and is thought to have inspired Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Check out a synopsis at

How Nancy is related to Owen Coffin she did not say. Perhaps a distant cousin on her father's side, once removed and twice sautéed?

And why exactly this came up at a Food Committee Meeting, I do not know. I doubt we will be serving whale meat, let alone human jerky, anytime soon. Too much sodium and preservatives. Still, in future men would do well to think twice before entering the buffet line when the door is closed.

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