Our Roving Chef, Jane Hughes, spoke to a group of hospice caterers…
One of the key messages I give to care home caterers is that the vegetarians and vegans they cater for are absolutely reliant upon them to deliver food that is trustworthy and nutritious. I have lots of PowerPoint slides, covering everything from details of nutrition to the precise wording of the Equality Act 2010, to help get this message across.
But in a hospice situation, the emphasis shifts. It’s not so much about delivering a diet that is nutritious in the long term, but much more about respect for a person’s wishes and beliefs.
Smooth diets are important in hospice care, and it’s all to easy to start offering pureed vegetables when you would think twice about offering a plate of veg. We spoke about protein and easy alternatives to meat and dairy products.
But instead of dwelling on the finer points of vegetarian and vegan nutrition, I emphasised the importance of getting to know the people you cook for, understanding why they are vegetarian or vegan and putting together a plan that delivers food to nourish them both physically and spiritually – an enjoyable mealtime experience can mean a great deal.
A quiz to test the audience’s understanding of the details of vegetarianism and veganism generated some interesting discussion. I explained that the point of the exercise was not to make them feel that they had been getting things wrong, but to make them experts in getting things right. One hospice cook shared two instances where he had come under fire from vegetarian families for failing to cater properly for their loved ones.
Afterwards, I took a short walk to the coastline where Antony Gormley’s silent iron men stand staring out to sea. Something about the day made me feel as if I had confronted a big issue and it was good to take time out to pause before I boarded the train.
The next day, the organiser made contact to ask for more of our literature to give to people joining his group, and for details of joining the UK List. I hope my small effort will have a ripple effect and make life better for some vegetarians and vegans in hospice care.