Food as Hope
By Blair Arms
Food. If we are fortunate enough, we are able to eat three meals a day; maybe more dependent upon our lifestyle. Some love being in the kitchen, others wouldn’t know what to do with a knife. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by grandparents and parents that cooked. I remember being in my Grandma Lou’s (Grams) kitchen when I was little on Thanksgiving, and seeing her freak out because we forgot the mashed potatoes and gravy! Luckily my Grams, a stay-at-home mom of 5 children, whipped out the potatoes from her pantry and put me to work. “We will use the microwave if we have to!” she said. That memory is one of my first memories of being in a kitchen and learning how to make homemade mashed potatoes and gravy (from the turkey drippings, of course). That memory is also one of the reasons I decided to pursue a career in culinary arts and why I link cooking/baking to family.
So, imagine being told that your child has to go a hospital, far away, for an unknown amount of time, and you don’t know anyone in that city. Not only do you have to go to that hospital, but you have to be at the hospital all day to ensure the best care for your child. When do you have time to shop for food? Even if you find the time, would you really want to cook? Our job at RMHC is to take that stress away and create a home environment so you don’t have to think about how you are going to feed yourself and your child (among other things).
Team Cuisine started in July 2017. One Chef volunteered their time, prepared the menu, shopped for groceries and helped prepare the meal. When the program picked up, RMHC knew they had to make Team Cuisine a full-time position. That’s where I come in!
My position as Head Chef is to ensure that the group has all of the necessary equipment and ingredients to make a meal for the families during their stay and that they can prepare it safely with the best sanitation practices. Upon arrival, I survey the group to see how many there are, break them off into teams, and they work at one of the stations that I have set up. After the meal has been prepared, the group serves the meal to our families, as well as takes care of the dishes and cleaning of the kitchen. The whole process is very hands on and interactive.
When coming up with menus, I consider what is being prepared during the week, and what I can buy within the budget. By doing meals through Team Cuisine, we can ensure that the families are being fed a well-balanced and delicious meal, and that the groups know how to prepare a nutritious meal for 100-150 people.
One thing I try to emphasize when I am working with a meal group is that RMH is first and foremost a house. I want the group to envision them being in their own home and making a meal for their family, putting the love and effort into the meal for RMH just as they would if they were at home. I believe that is what makes the group’s experience more authentic and an avenue for some great memories.
Our motto is Keeping Families Close. What better way to keep families than through food?