In 2004, I started a personal chef service, Come Home To Dinner, to help busy families and professional people eat healthy, nutritious, homemade food at home.
In recent years, I’ve noticed a shift in my business. More and more, I’m cooking for seniors in their homes. Usually, it’s the adult children who hire me; it helps their parents maintain their independence, as well as being assured they are eating well. Are the senior parents always open and receptive to the idea of having someone come into their homes, and cook for them? Well, rarely. Quite often, they are reluctant at first. They don’t want a stranger doing something for them they have always done for themselves and their families. However, if their kids can get them to agree to try it just one time, their trepidation goes away completely!
Kitchen Wisdom…Learned & Shared
Cooking for seniors, I quickly learned that my super-efficient, very fast moving way of moving about while cooking was not the speed to operate on! I found that when I tried to work quickly, I was missing the most important aspect of cooking for them, which is the visiting and conversation. Now, when I am cooking for older people, I slow down. It’s not about getting the cooking done quickly. I want to be able to turn around and look at them as we are talking. More often than not, they sit in the kitchen with me and chat while I am cooking. Usually, when I am done, we sit at the kitchen table and talk for a while more. We both appreciate this time together.
I am so honored when my senior clients share their history with me. Once, I was cooking for a lovely 88 year old widow, who shared with me her husband’s photo albums from his time in World War II. We sat at that kitchen table for a long time and talked as she shared his stories with me. Then, she took me through her home, proudly showing me picture after picture of her family.
Nourishing the Soul
Traveling to a senior’s home to cook, I pray for patience, compassion and to be a good listener. I’ve learned to spend a few quiet minutes asking God for a reset before I enter their home, to slow my usually fast pace down. On those days, when I’m scrunched for time, I talk to God in my car on the way there and breathe deeply as I head into their home. Why do I focus so much on slowing down? Well, mostly because they awaken me to living in the moment…to being truly present. I am not thinking about where I have been, or the next place I have to be. I am just there; with them, listening. I hear stories and get messages I wouldn’t otherwise. I believe that God speaks to us through people, and many times I’ve heard Him in these conversations, which is a very special, rewarding experience.
Seniors bring meaning to my day, whether it’s through their opening up with their stories or being handed old family recipes to cook, I feel so fortunate that they trust me. Is every day that I cook for my seniors a moving, soul-enriching experience? No, not always. There’s those clients of mine who are tremendously entertaining. I cook for an 87 year old elegant lady, who is very passionate about politics. Her observations are profound, and often so, so funny! When I leave her house, I feel physically lighter from laughing so much. I think she really gets a kick out of having someone who appreciates her humor.
Over the years, I have gotten such nice notes from families thanking me for providing nutrition and good food to their parents; getting to know them and be a part of their lives nourishes my soul, and for that, I am so grateful.