Wednesday, June 5, 2013

5 June 2013
1:00 PM

Institutional Food, Industrial Cooking and the effect of Soul Sucking Blind Adherence to Rooles

The food in these settings is not very familiar to most in here as food, as they know it. There often is discussion occurring on the inside of this building among the residents. Oh, there may be the usual grousing as the food is not what some are used to. But the food here is very far from what most folks are used to.

First, no food here has caffeine in it. The coffee is decaffeinated, so is the tea. The coffee is made from ground beans, but nowhere that the residents can have access to the brewing process. The coffee is brewed behind locked doors in the kitchen. It is only brought out from locked doors when it reaches a cooler temperature. Apparently we are being kept safe from our own assumed ineptness. I used to brew my own coffee at home and never managed to hurt myself. I also had an espresso machine and made lattes, steamed the milk, made cappuccino and all sorts of flavored coffees. I never got burned, the pressure generated never blew a gasket and scalded anyone. No one stopped by my house to inspect my kitchen or make sure that I wasn't going to get burned . I am amazed that because I have a disease that makes it difficult to stand and walk that am also expected to give up my developed taste in fine coffees.

Somehow I don't see the connection. Maybe such pursuit of my safety is a natural concern for state inspectors and facility providers, I don't know. One can tell that the coffee is brewed using ground beans as a cup of coffee often has grounds in the bottom of the cup when draining the cup, which was filled from the carafe that comes from the kitchen, behind those locked doors.

The coffee has a flavor that does not endear itself to a palate accustomed to many higher quality coffees. It is often bitter and not full bodied, there is no positive lingering after taste like better coffees. I suspect that it is not a high quality coffee bean or it is probably boiled, like cowboy coffee. I have tried running nearly everything past the staff here to get some better quality coffee, buying a completely automatic coffee brewer that would only need charging with cool water and (good quality) coffee, no getting close to the preparation – no deal. How about I buy some good quality coffee and donate it to the facility for the kitchen to prepare – nope, we have a contract with a company to do the kitchen work. We can't go outside of the contract. So maybe the too hot issue is not the issue at all. Maybe the contract holder keeps their bid low by providing the cheapest coffee available. After all, if those people want good coffee, they can always leave the building to get a decent cup of coffee at some coffee house. We the interned, can not.

Residents can have tea by dipping a tea bag into a cup full of luke-tepid water. Both the tea and the coffee are of dubious quality. The teabag has some unknown brand name on it. I even brought some of my favorite teabags from home, Earl Gray with double bergamot oil. It was a disaster. Because brewing tea is more than just delicately dipping a teabag in water. Black tea needs to be brewed in nearly boiling water (which cools as it steeps), the lighter green or white teas do best at slightly cooler brewing temperature, say 180 degrees. By the time the hot water is brought out from the kitchen to the residents to make their own tea, it is considerably cooler than that (again the burn issue).

Although letting a tea steep in that cooler water it will stain the water, its NOT tea. The flavonoids fail to be released, which not only effect the flavor but the other qualities of tea brewing. Like antioxidant production and all of the positive effects those have on the body. Flavonoids are also found in fresh citrus fruits (which are rare here), wine (definitely not served here) and dark chocolate (which somehow is viewed as a treat, not a healthy food, and is not served here).

The only way I could get a good cup of tea is if someone brings me a thermos of well brewed tea from outside of the building or I get a pass to leave the reservation and fix or buy one outside (very small chance of that happening). I used to have such a nice collection of teas at my home. I had loose teas (much better for brewing) that I bought by the pound, Lapsang Souchong (see more about it  here ) with its deep, rich, smoky flavor was a delight to sip.

Memories of many excursions in the woods would delightfully waft into mind, campfires smoldering, red coals shifting from one hot red shade to another cooler one. The hint of pine that scented the air, relaxing after a grueling day using the body to climb, walk and move about. The smell of rich earth humus beneath ones steadily relaxing body. A couple of devoted Golden Retrievers stretched out nearby, resting from their exploratory ambulations as well. The profound silence of nature far beyond the reach of civilization and the acculturation of too much – of everything. There is more to tea drinking than slurping hot liquid. One can have tea ceremony of one, with a delightful bowl of tea in hand.

Another sip, another memory. A different private nature moment. Now I wish that I had taken more of those before I got sick. Locked inside this reservation with lots of rules that make others feel safe for me is so mind numbingly, stultifyingly inhibitive. I have a disease that already steals my ability to physically walk and move around. Now out of a misdirected good intentions, I am further being robbed of even more. What amazes me is the irony of this situation. I can describe or explain why I would like to have or experience something to seemingly nice and very helpful people, but their response shows that they are already interpreting me for me, and how what I am requesting is counter to the rules. No body shows any willingness to even consider “out side of the lines thinking”. How to reach a goal that seems to be blocked by some rule.

I really grew up in the sixties when the challenge was issued to develop the technology needed to land a man on the moon and bring them back safely. As a whole, we did that in less than a decade. Once we achieved that and demonstrated that it was not a fluke but did the same thing several times again, we lost our goal. Sure beating the Soviets was a big motivator, but the Soviets have slipped back to being the Russians and are not the boogeyman they seemed to be. Without some external bad guy to be something that we could see to help motivate us forward we ended up turning on ourselves.

Now we have lawyers with nothing to do except advertise that they can find money through judgements that report to be huge windfalls for the client, all for contingency fees, the potential client pays nothing. There are many who seek governmental and regulatory positions making up rules to keep us safe, then to spread across the land to enforce these rules. As a consequence we had that famous case of the old woman who spilled hot coffee in her lap at a fast food take out window, she sued, won a large judgement. Now more rules have been made at state and facility levels keeping entities safe from frivolous litigation, but we, the individuals, are paying the price. I hope that woman is still able to enjoy her cup of coffee anytime she wants. I can just image the warmth, the mouth feel, the taste of a food cup of coffee, because that seems to be the closest I will get to it. Thank you selfish woman.

More rules, others feel as if they are doing a good job, I am incrementally reduced yet again. My humanity is slowly being withdrawn by nameless bureaucracy, faceless ,enforced guidelines that fails to understand the simple essence of being human. Does anyone see me? Can they see what is happening? Do they care?

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