We've been taught as children to mind our P's and Q's but after this week I am reconsidering this admonition in favor for mining my peas and carrots. Every day I am given a tri-perforated menu which lists the food choices for the next day. At first it was a thrilling game of acquisition: I was scoring carbs, racking up fruit and vegetable points, seizing adequate protein and even procured a dessert or two. The daily selection displayed in my head like some colorful mosaic of texture and color and I put serious consideration into each decision. But I sobered up upon my first serving of well cooked carrots. If there ever were falsehood in advertising, this was it. They arrived mute and dull, death by water. I do not know in fact if I have ever had vegetables prepared that way and because of this I stared down at them and smiled a bit. The coins looked so gentle, edges slightly rounded, all tooth- extracted, the colors translucent shades of orange sherbet. Someone drained the life force out of these carrots and poured it down the sink with the water. I estimated that if I were to compare these poorly cooked carrots with some oven roasted ones simply tossed in olive oil and salt, the former would possess a scant 1/5th of the flavor and character of the latter. I discovered this sad situation to be true for the alternating beans and broccoli as well. Entrees while not similarly water logged were devoid of sense appeal and though my plate over floweth, very little deep satisfaction prevailed. Inside sources tell me that the menus are antiquated, leftover from the 70's perhaps. I can practically see the black and white laminated poster of the food pyramid tacked up next to the cook at the service work station. Apparently the meals were created to accomodate all diets. When one considers all of the possible restrictions overlayed upon a weary dish, what remains is some kind of mass which remotely resembles the fake food of restaurant displays- but with less luster.
It occurred to me that I could scribble a message on a napkin for when the trays were sent back to the kitchen. "Please feed me!" sounds dramatic and misleading. "To whom it may concern, can you put more care into the food and season it?", wierd and too self-important simultaneously. I am wisely afraid of retaliation from the cook crew who might find my attention too meddlesome. Just call me a concerned citizen, self nominated food-watchdog of my corridor. I am fine with my piped butter pats, packets of salt and personal stash of peanut butter granola bars; it is the welfare of the others that have me wondering overtime.
O_ is a sprite, bird like woman with greying hair pushed back into a hurried ponytail. Her eyes are bright and surveillant, she is perpetually leaned forward darting out the door and out of reach of hands that want her to mind. She wants to bolt, to open the door and fly away. She hungers to taste and explore all of the dimensions denied her when peas and carrots are cooked to an unbearable flattened line. I cannot help cheering her on silently everytime the door alarm sounds. She never gets far before those hands huddle her back in, but everytime is a personal assertion of will and appetite. Story has it that another past patient would sneak out in wheelchair to the local ice cream store, he too was later found wheels stuck in the mud. Despite temporary setbacks this gentleman marched on to a full recovery. I find myself blasting down the corridor full tilt ahead so that the whirr-whirr of my wheelchair will reverberate and sprinkle the halls with speed-movement and sound. I dream of peddling through the rooms with streamers and balloons attached to my chair pushing a cart full of never ending goodness and satisfaction, some sort of adult Good Humor truck. From being here and watching others (like O_) I conclude that with whatever is on the plate there is always the need to excavate and explore and uncover the right seasonings that make life taste great--even if it means bending a few rules.