Human Connection and Interaction Through In-Home Cooking
By: chef Mayumi Tavalero, Forks&Knife Creations, Published on 09/01/2020
A Foodom in-home cooking service is more than just delicious food prepared by a personal cook, but company, conversation, and empathy during difficult times.
Hello, my name is Mayumi Tavalero and I am a personal chef from Sacramento working with Foodom. I had the recent pleasure of cooking for a very sweet elderly man, I’ll call him Jim (name withheld for privacy reasons). Jim requested his home chef shop for groceries prior to cooking, so I did, but ended up arriving at Jim’s house about 20 minutes early. I was going to text him to see if it was okay for me to start a little early, but before I could, there he was out the front door, letting me know parking in his driveway was okay.
He told me about how he planted the crepe myrtles along the driveway years ago and that they were finally large enough to provide a shady spot to park. He had a welcoming smile (he had his face covering on, but I could tell by his eyes) and he asked me if I needed any help unloading my car. I had my mask on as well, as he showed me to his kitchen.
Jim looked to be about 75 years old and I got the impression he lived alone. He told me he would like to hang out in the kitchen so he could let me know where to find whatever I needed.
He sat at the kitchen table with the TV on low, as he worked on a sticker art project. I had never seen anything like that before, but it looked like he was enjoying it. I was however familiar with origami, as my mother had taught me how to fold paper into cranes when I was a little girl. He had several origami cranes hanging from the light above the table. My mom, sister, and I would spend rainy days creating all kinds of things from the square sheets of colored paper.
As I started prepping, I could tell he enjoyed showing me where everything was. His kitchen was very clean and organized. Jim showed me all his spices that him and his wife bought from the bulk bins and what she used them for.
He told me how his son-in-law remodeled the kitchen with new countertops and how they had a prep sink, but that that was eventually replaced with a dishwasher. We talked about the restaurants he would order food from, what his favorite dishes were, and what his wife used to cook, and even how hard it was to clean light-colored grout. He commented on how good the food smelled as it was cooking. As a personal chef I notice that people comment on how the food smells most vs how it looks. I have another client that tells me how much they miss the smell of home-cooked food when I’m not there. For me, it brings back memories of when I was young.
When my Mom was cooking I would ask “Mmmm that smells good! When will dinner be ready?” Or I would ask her what’s for dinner early in the day, and if it was one of my favorites, I would ride my bike home as fast as I could that evening. I didn’t want to be late for dinner! Remember those days when kids would ride bikes all summer and their parents wouldn’t see them until dinner time?
I was at Jim’s house for a total of 2 hours and the entire time we talked as if we knew each other for years. It made my job so much more rewarding, knowing that I was able to bring more than just a good meal, but that I could bring some pleasant conversation to someone that may have been feeling a bit lonely, especially during these difficult times.
When I was finished cooking and the kitchen was all clean, I gathered up my things and headed out the door.
Jim thanked me and I thanked him. On my drive home I had a chance to reflect on what a wonderful experience cooking for Jim was. I was able to provide more than just nourishing food, but the company, friendship, conversation, and a connection to a human being, and what I didn’t expect was that I got the same in return.
Human beings are social creatures. Our connection to others enables us to thrive and perhaps most important to survive. About 28 percent of older adults in the United States, or 13.8 million people, live alone, which may leave many older adults vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness. In turn, this may contribute to health problems such as cognitive decline, depression, and heart disease.
I’m not saying these were issues Jim was dealing with, quite the contrary. I found him to be sharp, witty, and engaging. Jim may be living alone but he was not lonely. But it did get me thinking about those elderly people that aren’t as fortunate as him. I started thinking about how a service like Foodom could provide some much-needed help to those that find it difficult to get out of the house to shop for food and/or cook for themselves. And how a home cook provides so much more than just meal preparation, but social contact for those that are feeling isolated. How would a relative of yours feel about a service like this? How would you feel about becoming a chef on the Foodom platform, knowing that you could share so much more than just your love of cooking?
Later that evening I got a text from Jim. He just wanted to thank me again for dinner-and to let me know that it was very good!