NORTH HILL STORIES DURING COVID 19
Watch this space over the coming weeks as we share essays, poems from North Hill about life during COVID-19.
Mystery of the Fruits! From Resident Al Woodcock
Because of Covid-19, a fully prepared meal is delivered every day to every Crescent Heights resident’s room, ready to be microwaved and eaten. Every week we receive a menu with a choice of two entree options per day along with a soup and vegies. The fruit and desert are a surprise when we open our brown bag.
I learned that by walking by the assembly line set up in the main restaurant, where the bags are filled, I could observe what the mystery items were. I decided to use this knowledge to outsmart two ladies who are always sitting 6 feet apart and chatting on the route to my apartment and appear to know everything that is going on. So one day with the secret information firmly fixed in my brain, I walked up to them and said in a rather superior tone, I admit, “Well, ladies, what is the fruit today?” “Oranges” they said in unison. How did they know this was the correct answer? Must have been luck. I repeated the process the next day. “Apples,” they said. They were right again. And this happened the next day and the next. I gave up the game at that point and they refuse to tell me how they knew. Whatever their secret, it must explain how they really do know everything.
Here is the first from Resident Alice Polley. Alice and her 10-year-old grand-daughter Skyler have had their time together disrupted by the pandemic. Here’s how they feel about it.
Alice: Fridays were Skyler’s day. Finally, in January 2020, after recovering from a knee replacement, I could resume picking up my granddaughter, Skyler (10), from school on Fridays and spending the afternoon with her. We would play games like Connect Four and Sorry, watch a movie, cook supper, read together, and just talk. Skyler is perpetual motion, wiggling constantly, often upside down, always observant, empathetic, and very smart.
Skyler: Fridays were Grandmother’s day. She would always be waiting outside school when the bell rang. She always had a snack for me in the car, which was good because I was always hungry. When we got to her apartment, we’d play games. She’s really terrible at games, especially Connect Four! She’d watch me turn cartwheels and do handstands on her furniture. She’d let me help make supper and smoothies. We planned a trip to California this summer.
Alice: I miss Skyler! I don’t even know what day it is anymore. I miss hugs. I wish we could start making plans again.
Skyler: I miss my friends! I hate Zoom calls. I miss hanging out with my Grandmother. Everything is cancelled, including our trip to California. I wish we could start making plans again.
Resident Geoff Pierson is happy with North Hill’s dining services even in the time of COVID!
Dining Services “Repurposed”
The mid-day knock on residents’ doors has become a welcome signal on these dreary lockdown days that delivered meals have arrived, and those of us quick to open apartment doors can shout a thank you to the wait staff disappearing down the corridor to locate the next recipient. Some residents have likened the opening of their delivered meals to the unwrapping of gifts, with surprise contents inside like a wine-tasting “kit” or an ice cream bar.
The preparation, packaging and distribution of hundreds of meals each day operates with the efficiency of an assembly line, still responding to residents’ special dietary requirements, as well as continuing to offer a choice of meat or fish. Residents’ responses, posted on My North Hill, have been consistently positive and grateful for the quality and imagination of these daily offerings. The transition from the pre-virus preparation of fourteen different entrees in three different kitchens for four different dining venues to the production of five hundred meals in one kitchen has involved significant adjustments, as has ordering sufficient quantities and ensuring enough wait staff for what appeared initially to be just a two-week effort.
Who Makes It Happen
- Josh Botsford, Director of Dining Services
- Rob Fox, Executive Chef
- Ilene Mirabile, Assistant Director of Dining Services
- Barbara Dunne, Dining Room Manager
- Tom Lynch, Executive Sous Chef
- Sharon Foster Sous Chef
- Mark Merriott, Baker
- Melissa Lawrence, Baker
- and North Hill’s many dedicated cooks and waitstaff
Residents were first alerted to coming changes when the Sunday buffet was replaced with a limited menu meal in Summa, which Josh Botsford characterized as less likely to host the virus than open bowls of salad and baskets of bread. With the decision made to deliver meals, the dining team had thirty-six hours to activate the contingency plan that Josh Botsford had prepared; to develop menus, order ingredients, assemble the necessary containers; locate masks and gloves; and schedule members of the team.
Distributed menus allow residents to make weekly selections with their choices posted on apartment doors. Members of the dining team travel though the corridors and note the selections, and from a tabulation of these, orders for appropriate quantities of ingredients are placed, such as:
- 35 cases a week of various of fruits
- 80 lbs. of scallops
- 5 cases of bananas
- 10,000 containers
- 3,500 delivered meals a week
- 23 cases of individual containers per week
Each day three hundred and fifty bags are filled by wait staff with a main course that has been previously cooked and chilled for sanitation, followed by soup, fruit, and dessert. The bags are loaded on luggage carts, according to wing locations, with wait staff making a number of returns to Summa to have carts reloaded. Over heard from one breathless wait staff: “I have run the length of the building six times today.”
Wait staff are rewarded with a provided lunch and the security of having their positions at North Hill maintained throughout the shutdown. Other Dining Team members roles have changed, as well. Josh Botsford oversees a very different operation; Rob Fox now devotes substantial time to interpreting residents’ menu choices and ordering the necessary ingredients; and Ilene Mirabile and Barbara Dunne supervise the loading of bags, rather than insuring the smooth operation of our dining rooms
For many dining team members what has become the “new normal” offers some advantages. Called upon to demonstrate remarkable flexibility, they have enjoyed the change of pace, and, as Rob Fox observed, the earlier quitting time has allowed him to prepare and enjoy dinner with his family more regularly, exhibiting on a smaller scale what he does so successfully all day.