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A Critical Look At The Deep Northern Suburban Retirement Facility’s Cafeteria

January 13, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments
By Brian Schropp

By Brian Schropp

BRIAN SCHROPP ON CUISINE

So my Dad and I sat down the other day and had one of our famous “heart to heart” talks. Holding down a job and contributing to the family income is indeed not a strong suit of mine. Exacerbated by the legal strain I have put on the family recently, I was told “something must break.” My Dad in his “infinite wisdom” came up with what he called a “Family Service Plan” in which I would go see the neglected Schropp relatives that the others didn’t have time for in their “busy schedules.” I agreed.

The first on my dad’s list was Great Pap Pap Schropp at the nearby retirement facility. I stressed to my Dad there was a reason Great Pap Pap was neglected– the fact of the matter is that he isn’t a nice man. PLUS, out of all the great-great grandchildren, he liked me the least. My Dad held firm, I was to spend the afternoon with him and have lunch. The lunch part got my attention, I had begged and pleaded with my folks on many past visits to try their cafeteria with no success. Now was my chance!!

Dad dropped me off at the retirement facility’s front entrance a short time later. As I started to hop out of the minivan, my head was swimming with what food delights I might find inside. My Dad stopped me short by grabbing my arm. “I’m trusting you not to mess this up.” I looked him right in the eye. “No mess ups this time Dad, I promise.”

I walked in and told the receptionist who I was there to see, she rolled her eyes at the mention of Great Pap Pap’s name and gave me his room number. I knew his room instantly when I heard the ruckus and shouting coming from the other side of the door. A female attendant stormed out and quickly passed me grumbling about not getting paid enough. I took a deep breath, braced myself and then entered the room.

My Great Pap Pap frowned at the sight of me. “What the hell are you doing here?” I told him about the “Family Service Plan”.

Great Pap Pap Schropp

Great Pap Pap Schropp

He shook his head. “Well, you look goofy as ever.”

I had no comeback for this.

There were a few moments of awkward silence, “Well, have you even kissed a girl yet?”

I tried to tell him of my brief love affair a number of years ago when I was twenty-four but he just shook his head again.

Another few moments of silence.

“Are you still writing words for the paper?”

I tried to tell him how rewarding it was writing for the Lankville paper but he soon cut me off.

“Guess that’s something. When I was your age I already had a family which was almost grown, served in two wars and owned my own roller skate repair shop. Not sure what’s wrong with you but you’re sure a disappointment to the family name—”

I sort of tuned him out and let him babble on for awhile. When I thought the time was right I asked, “Hey can we check out the cafeteria and get some lunch?” I then immediately asked him what type of food the cafeteria normally had and what he could recommend.

“Most of the food tastes like cardboard and is bland. Not sure what you are expecting.”

My heart sank a little but I kept myself optimistic. Maybe he was just being overly cynical.

My Great Pap Pap and I set forth to the other side of the facility where the cafeteria was located. Along the way he would introduce me to fellow residents as his “disappointment” (with a chuckle). After walking for what seemed like an eternity and getting no closer to the cafeteria, Great Pap Pap finally admitted he was lost in the great maze of hallways. I really wasn’t paying attention to where we were going– I was thinking about what food delights I might be having and admiring all the nice floral paintings on the walls.

He slumped in a nearby chair and said he wasn’t moving. “You can go on and find the damn place if you like. I’m just going to sit here and think about how much you went wrong until someone finds me and takes me back to my room. No need to come to my room again. I will tell your Dad you spent the whole afternoon with me. Nothing personal I’m just getting tired of looking at your dopey face.”

Nothing personal taken!!  With a wave goodbye I was off!

The hunger pains were getting deep, it was almost one, I never had lunch so late.

I tried to retrace my steps but found myself deeper into the complex– one hallway looking like another. The residents I encountered offered little help, usually being lost themselves or mistaking me for a relative. The hunger pains were getting deep, it was almost one, I never had lunch so late. But soon the faint smell of ham and green beans came to me and I knew I was on the right track. I came to big double doors at the end of the hall. Feeling very faint I rushed through them.

On the other side was a kitchen in the state of lunch time kitchen craziness, Large women in hairnets moved swiftly around carrying oversized pots of steaming food and pouring them into large containers. The noise, the steam of the food, the clank of the pots, the yelling, reminded me of a factory just as much as a cafeteria. I realized I had found the kitchen entrance not the main entrance and turned to leave but was grabbed by the collar by the largest of the women. “About time you got here, Not good being late for your first day. You might not get paid, you know.”

I tried telling this woman it was a mistake but she was too busy to notice. She forcibly slapped a hair net on me and an apron as well. I soon found myself mashing potatoes with another woman named Selma. This woman knew what she was doing– I never seen such force and quickness put into mashing potatoes before. I clearly wasn’t able to hold my own and after a few short minutes the large woman from before grabbed me by the collar again.

The

The kitchen at the Deep Northern Suburban Retirement Facility Cafeteria.

“What’s wrong with you?!! Haven’t you worked in food service before or even mashed a potato?!!”

Before I could even try to explain that she had the wrong person there was a honking by the delivery door.

“Finally the chicken salad is here!! Go help bring that delivery in– at least you can’t mess that up!!”

I went to the delivery door and tried to pull up the chain but failed. The van kept honking. Selma walked by shaking her head and said I had to unbolt the door first. After finding said bolt I hoisted up the chain while the honking reached a fever pitch. I opened the van delivery doors and started to pull out the plastic tubs of chicken salad. A voice which sounded familiar growled, “about time, I don’t have all day waiting around”. After pulling out two tubs I saw who was sitting in the front of the van and who now could see me in his rear view mirror. The chicken salad was supplied by Foodville.

I could see Hank Cameron’s face twist in furious anger from the mirror. “WHY YOU–”

I turned around and bolted as fast as I could bumping off of a few of the cafeteria ladies in the process. I heard him running up the steps and through the receiving door in hot pursuit. In a blind panic I ran towards the nearest door knocking over pots of food, dishes and a few other ladies along the way. I found myself in the main cafeteria area as the alarms and panic sirens went off. Everything erupted into a mass of chaos much like what happened at the Xmas party at the lodge expect this looked like slow motion because everyone was so old. I passed my Great Pap Pap sitting at a table gnawing on some fried chicken ignoring what was going on around him.

“Hey I thought you were going back to your room!!”

Hank Cameron (unflattering close-up file photo)

Hank Cameron (unflattering close-up file photo)

“Just a ruse Bri, to get you away from me. I thought I got you lost enough in this damn place that you’d never find the cafeteria. And you better step out of the way. Some fool is leaping right towards you.”

I felt Hank Cameron brush my shoulder as I dodged out of the way and he landed right smack on the table in front of Great Pap Pap knocking his chicken away. There was a few second stare down but then my Great Pap Pap punched Hank Cameron square in the nose knocking him out!! Who knew he still had that in him!!

Security soon came and got a handle on the situation. As I waited in the”control room” for my dad to pick me up (my hands were shaking} they were kind enough to bring me a plate of food!! I clearly avoided the chicken salad since it was from Foodville but the other offerings, especially the “denture approved” honey bake ham was a delight. I could also tell the mashed potatoes were Selma’s, so smooth!! I said to the lead security officer (Marv I think it was) that I couldn’t wait to come back and properly try the food here. He said odds are that I probably won’t be welcomed back but we will see!!
Until next time keep your mind and mouth open new ideas. Happy eating!!-Bri

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