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Death On A Plate

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Sabine Schneider
Sabine Schneider

This morning I found a job advertisment on Trade Me

- yes, still looking for that perfect place . . .

They were wanting to employ a cook for some rest home or other. Because I've worked for a hospice kitchen I know how important the kitchen is for operations like rest homes, hospitals, schools, rehab and dementia care units etc.

When I logged on to the home's website I found most staff was listed with photo and a little bio - all very warm and inviting. But sadly the kitchen staff  had fallen by the wayside together with the importance and healing properties of food for the nourishment of the elderly. This is indicative of kitchens in most, if not all, institutions.

Cooks are either completely forgotten (together with the cleaners) or they've become prancing ponies on TV and thus rendered useless for anyone's nourishment.

I don't want to blame all this world's evil on the good tucker we don't have - but food obviously plays a role in the make up of a balanced body, mind and soul.

From the time we're born (or shortly after) to the time we're stuffed into the holding pens where our old folks are kept we are fed bad food: Babies get fed out of jars day in and day out - would you like to eat preserved food every day? At school we're bombarded with worthless junk. By the time we're able to chose for ourselves we've forgotten (or never experienced) real food.

If we happen to find ourselves in a hospital our body, which now more than ever is dependent on every little bit of healing it can get is really in for a shock: Pre-prepared, pre-fabricated from pre-cooked dead ingredients the "food" is shloshed on to trays, shoved into warming boxes, held for however long in corridors until some of the overworked staff has the time to plonk it on your table. If your body wasn't sick already, it's certainly going to be after a long hospital stay.

It's the same in every institution. Most have the tiresome work of providing nourishment for "inmates" done by contractors. And these contract firms are run by people who don't care if they sell shoe laces or meals for the sick, young and elderly. They also don't care about staff. Or the quality of food they're producing. Oh, sure they have mission statements and ramble on about how they care about quality and staff and even the environment. But it's all lies. None of this really matters. Only money matters. Okay - you knew this.

The reason why greedy people love contract work is that nobody is responsible or accountable. The institutions don't have to deal with riff-raff in the kitchen, their work environment, their fair pay. And the contractors can just employ anyone who can toss some fries into hot fat, give them a polyester uniform and a pittance after subtracting what they deem to be their share. The business of outsourcing is designed to create fog so both parties can point the finger at each other: It wasn't us, it's the other one's policy and we can't do anything about it. The only thing both contractors and institutions are actually good at is weeding out those undesirables who are really passionate about serving food that will not just fill up, but nourish and sustain.

Although kitchen staff carries some responsibility it is not they who are to blame for this disaster. They are in short supply and don't stay long - no wonder: They're not appreciated, they earn sfa, their work hours are often incompatible with family/social life, and because kitchen admin takes precedence over cooking time, they're often busier filling in forms than doing what they were employed to do.

The whole setup has nothing to do with serving good food. And, as a matter of course, none of the recipients are involved in preparing their own food. Which is obvious in the case of babies, sick and infirm people. But why not involve those who can and want to take part in the preparation of the food they're eating? Children, elderly people, rehab and dementia patients ... But no - of course - too expensive, no staff to supervise, safety issues - I understand.

And supermarkets and wholesalers are rejoicing. There's hardly any time for cooking so food has to arrive in the kitchen already half done - potatoes already peeled, meat patties already frozen and stacked into cardboard boxes, thousands of loaves of pappy white bread in thousands of plastic bags, chicken unrecognisably blown to smithereens, scraped up, mixed with the unpronouncable and formed into nuggets, etc. All that stuff doesn't even come cheap. The products sold to institutions is worth millions of dollars to the evil empires that are the supermarket conglomerates. And many people who should know better are in bed with them. Just think of "nutritionists" on TV, the healthy-heart tick and even government departments finding nothing wrong with serving junk to children. As a result fake, toxic, dead stuff is served to us posing as food.

And what are we doing? We're sucking it up, paying through the nose and suffering from the effects.

No wonder we're getting sicker and sicker while an elite few are getting richer and richer on our backs.

No wonder we're unemployed while unproductive managers are sprouting out of every hole.

No wonder we're depressed, suffer from ADHD, Alzheimers, obesity, Parkinsons, allergies and a thousand other diseases.

No wonder . . .

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