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A warmed-over craving

June 13, 2016
by Kathleen Mears
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Living in a nursing home and eating the same food day after day causes cravings. For a couple of months I have wanted some guacamole and chips and crunchy tacos from the nearby fast food place. To assuage my guilt for deviating from my food program, I decided I could take a meal off, or even a day off once in a while.

For weeks, I have mentioned my craving for tacos. I think the facility staff thought I was just talking, but I was serious. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I asked one of the aides if she could bring me tacos. She put an alert in her smartphone to remember.

When she arrived at 3 p.m., I heard the tacos were in the building. For some reason, I thought I could just eat those tacos because I was in the mood for them. But, 3 p.m. is a busy time for the afternoon shift, and my needs cannot supersede the needs of the other residents. I was told I could have my tacos at my normal snack time after the residents' supper. I made sure my tacos were refrigerated—not wanting to get food poisoning. But I was concerned about them being reheated.

I have to say I have never reheated a takeout taco. I never had any left over. I usually eat three of the crunchy type; I do not care for soft ones or even a taco supreme.

Waiting for the tacos made me hungrier. But I wondered about the flavor. I remembered the words of an interim administrator at my previous facility, who had worked at a well-known burger chain for years before finishing her healthcare education. She said, "Fast food has to be served within seven minutes from the time it is prepared." That rule did not apply since my tacos would be reheated.

When my aide brought the tacos in my room, the first thing I noticed was there was no warm, slightly greasy taco smell. Now, when I get tacos, that smell is important. And while these might not be authentic Mexican tacos, they are what I am used to.  The guacamole was good; it was chilled from the fridge. The chips were strangely shaped and some were even balled up somewhat but the taste was familiar.

My aide told me he had never fed anyone a taco and thought it might be messy. When I saw the taco was sticking to the paper, I was getting nervous. Then I looked and saw there was no cheese. The aide who got them for me knew I do not care for cheese on most foods. However, on tacos I make an exception.

As my aide held the no-cheese taco wrapped in paper, I took a bite and it was sort of like the warm, greasy taco I remember. Except it was congealed and staying that way. As I ate it, there was not much dripping—in fact none—on the first one. On the other two, they sat long enough to become moist and they were tearing and falling apart. Reheated though they were, I ate them like they were the thickest steak in the finest steak house.

Would I get tacos again and eat them hours later reheated? No, I would not. Something about food has to be of the moment. Even a craving has to be honored in a reasonable amount of time. I can see why psychologists urge people to modify their behavior to change it. If I had to delay getting a taco for several weeks and then have to reheat it, I would probably never eat them. Some other more healthy or easily accessible food would certainly take their place.

But I do want to thank the aide I will call Freckle Face for getting me those tacos and trying out the warm-up idea. I appreciate it, and I learned something.


Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...