The kitchen kingdom

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 10, 2003

My mother was a notoriously bad cook – made no bones about it. She stated very simply, &uot;I hate to cook so why should I learn?&uot; In self-defense Dad did the learning and became a marvel at it. He would make a beef stew that was to die for. With eight kids to feed he had no alternative. He did say Mother made the best Jell-O in all of Massachusetts. She didn’t take offense; she knew where he was going.

Reason for the sins of the kitchen? This morning I visited the kitchen of the Nansemond Pointe Nursing Home Why? I could be a wise guy and say &uot;Doesn’t everyone?&uot; But I won’t. Explanation: I had a visit from the administrator of said institution and asked if I might write about this kitchen as all our meals at Hillcrest Retirement come by way of this kitchen. She’s always pleasant and easy to talk to (she listens.) Answer: Of course, go kitchen investigating. Wow!

My home kitchen was ever ready for a cup of tea for neighbors and at night fierce poker games. Over I went ready to accept anything and found myself overwhelmed. It wasn’t a kitchen; it was, as title suggests – a kingdom. The king is Tyrone (such a romantic name!) and appears to enjoy his own cooking. I won’t say more, Tyrone. He was polite, so friendly and helpful. He needed someone asking questions like he needed the flu (the new Asian one.) Here’s what I saw – patience while I list:

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Two conventional ovens

One conventional range (immense)

Toaster (makes enough for a club occasion

One coffee maker, gigantic (need coffee for a college prom?)

One walk-in refrigerator

Assembly line trays

One walk-in freezer

Three sinks for washing, rinsing and sanitizing

Get the picture? Big! My mother would have walked right by it declaring, &uot;Big is ugly.&uot; Not me – I was fascinated.

This fact amazed me: they cook meals three times a day for 190 people plus staff members every day! My mother would have had an answer for that! Rolls, cookies – hundreds of them are baked daily. My complaint is canned fruit cocktail – they must have a storage area brimming with it. Not for me, thank you.

The kitchen amazed me and King Tyrone rules. He made a batch of cornbread while I questioned him. As long as it wasn’t greens or grits he had my full attention. After all, I’m a Yankee. Never have I seen such an awesome kitchen. Glad I don’t have to clean it.

Florence Arena is a resident of Hillcrest Retirement Center and a regular News-Herald columnist.