Years ago, I realized that one of the cool things about working at Omega House, an AIDS hospice, is that I can cook using all the ingredients I have to leave out when I'm trying to eat healthy. Of course, the not so cool thing ... in fact the tragedy ... is that people are there because they're dying. But in the moment, you don't think about that so I'm not dwelling on it now either.
What I am focused on is that today I made enchiladas for the residents. They weren't my best effort and if the guy who only speaks Spanish had had any family there at the time, I wouldn't have made the attempt because it would have been just too embarrassing. But, the vols and the nurse were limited to pequito amounts of chats with him and I figured that a chile might put a smile on his toothless face.
I was right.
I went to Kroger for some of the ingredients and then scoured the kitchen. Meat, lots of Rotel, a cabinet raid for extra spices, a can of enchilada sauce I found, taking the time to soak the tortillas in sauce before filling them, cheese on top and a side dish of potatoes with Rotel/onion/cheese topping made for a completely non-figure-friendly plate of food.
When I checked in on our Spanish speaker afterwards, I managed an "Esta bien?" and he grinned wickedly as he nodded and declared them "rico" as well. I think that means that I might should have used a little less cheese but he was beaming when I took his plate and he ate it.
The woman who wondered if she'd be able to handle the spice deemed them more than acceptable and for some reason kept saying, "She really put her foot in it." I think she means I jumped in with both feet and succeeded but I try not to dig too deep into comments that make no sense there. Dementia is pretty common.
The guy from Ethiopia couldn't get through them. Even the banana he asked for as a side didn't help. So I cut him a piece of pastry and he was good.
The pianist was not sated on the first helping and so I gave him more. The other vol and the nurse who was going to stick to his brought-from-home sandwich enjoyed them as well.
All in all a good day. And you know why?
Because when I pulled up there were folks sweating in the front lawn making it Garden Club worthy. The front room was packed with supplies going out to pet owners who were part of the system in some way. Two other volunteers were there. A nurse I love was monitoring it all. And more vols were being trained upstairs.
We were all doing what we knew how to do to make a few lives a little better.
Enchiladas aren't going to save the world but they can prompt a smile on a gaunt and toothless face. And today that matters.