A few weeks before Christmas, John’s dad told us about a discussion he’d had with his table mates at the nursing home. He dines with Maureen, Phil and Ruth and they have lively conversations about deep subjects every evening while enjoying a glass of wine. Before Maureen joined the table she made it clear that she would only sit with them if they talked about interesting subjects.
The discussion they’d had was about the quality of food in their 5-star accommodation at Arcare in Maroochydore. While their rooms are really well done and the building is brand new and beautiful, the oldies who are ‘with it’ intellectually are less than impressed with the food. Rob laughs when he tells us that the menus are posted with fancy French names for each dish and “Really, Maureen, it’s either stew or quiche.”
After the phone call I said to John that we should invite the oldies over for a meal and before you knew it, they’d been invited for an Australian Christmas lunch on the 23rd. It took two cars to get the four of them here with their walkers but it was so worth it. While I finished putting the meal on the table, they sat outside in the sun by the water and enjoyed a glass of wine.
Rob was a perfect host and watching him made me realize how much people give up when they move from their own home to an aged care facility. He loved to entertain when he had his own home and that’s just not possible when you’re not in your own place. I thought I was giving him a nice gift by inviting his friends.
Well, that’s how I felt until I sat down with these four. I was in stitches laughing the whole time. In the photo above from left to right is Phil a former captain of a boat that ferried boat pilots to the big ships on their way to and from Brisbane. He’s a fairly new friend and Rob has great discussions with him. Next is Maureen and she and her husband owned a news agency which means she knew everyone in town she lived in. Then there’s Rob, my father-in-law, former physics lecturer and host with the most. Next to Rob is Ruth and she and her former husband ran prawn trawlers in northern New South Wales. On the other side is John’s sister Cathy who lives in Melbourne and came up to have Christmas with her parents.
First we did the Christmas crackers and everyone wore their crowns, read the jokes and swapped their trinkets. Maureen really takes charge of the men and they seem to love it. The more she talked the more I wished she were MY mother. She’s such a funny person. They were all delightful to be with.
We served fresh prawns, a glazed ham with Charlie Louie’s cherry chutney, grilled pineapple, carrots with grapes, potato salad and a spinach salad. We had a small mountains of prawns and there were only 2-3 left. There was no complaining about the food at this table and they all went back for seconds.
Cathy and I cleared the table and then it was time for dessert. Rob loves mango and I’ve been bringing a bowl of cut mango over for the four of them since mango season started so it was a must that mango was a part of dessert. I served mango ice cream with crushed up meringues, fresh mango and whipped cream. I wasn’t sure anyone would have room for it after the meal they ate but not a bit was left on any plate.
They really liked this spinach salad with roast pumpkin and feta.
- 1 large bag fresh baby spinach leaves
- ½ butternut pumpkin, peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ pomegranate (optional)
- 1 small block Danish feta cheese (could use goats cheese)
- 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- ½ (scant) teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Add all ingredients to a bottle and shake to combine.
- Drizzle the olive oil over the butternut and place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 180C/350F for 20 minutes or until lightly caramelized. Leave to cool
- In a dry skillet, toast pine nuts until golden brown and set aside to cool.
- Wash the baby spinach leaves and place in a large bowl.
- Add cooled pumpkin, pine nuts and cubed feta cheese and toss with enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves. Place in serving bowl.
- If using, bash a few pomegranate seeds (arils) over the salad.
Jean | DelightfulRepast.com says
Maureen, I love to see people like you and John who are treating an aged parent so well. So many of the 80+ set are either ignored by younger people or treated as if they were children. We must all remember that no matter how old our “shell” becomes we are still the same inside. Older ones have a lot to offer.
It’s funny, I notice that the oldies are treated as children more at the nursing home. Frankly some, like John’s mother, are in fact children in old bodies and I don’t have a problem with how they’re treated. It’s kind and caring.
For those with all their mental faculties but are only frail, it’s insulting. When Rob says, “I’m not allowed to do that,” I laugh and say, “Let’s piss ’em off.” He cracks up. If HE thinks he can do it, I’ll be there with him. Nobody should sit and wait to die.
Taste of Beirut says
Wow that is quite the Christmas set up! And the salad looks perfect. Hearty and light at the same time!
What a beautiful, festive salad! Looks like a fun and interesting group of people for Christmas dinner too!
Tricia @ Saving room for dessert says
What a lovely post Maureen! I love that you had a special luncheon – you are a very wonderful lady! I love that salad too – already printed it for later – yummy! And let me say Happy New Year to you – as you will get there before we will here on the east coast. Blessings to you and your family!
Yes, we’ll test out the new year well ahead of you. I’ll let you know how it looks. 🙂 Happy New Year!
Not even sure what to say, you know how much this post hits close to home here…
Yes, old folks lose a lot when they move to a nursing home, and it is sooo sad… but you surf through it all and give SO MUCH to all of them, you are beyond amazing!
Not beyond amazing. Those smiling faces were SUCH a gift to John, Cathy, Jim and I. Even Charlie had a good time.
I think there’s only ONE situation in which Charlie doesn’t have a good time. When you take him for that Summer shave… poor thing, the look on his face is enough to make anyone melt…
Rachel (Rachel's Kitchen NZ) says
Oh, what a lovely gift for the oldies Maureen – that’s what Christmas is all about I think and as we get older it is making sure that everyone is included and given at least a little joy – I love this combo for a salad and it looks so pretty and festive.
Emma @ Bake Then Eat says
Sounds like a great day was had by all! And what a lovely looking salad 🙂
So nice of you to invite them for a meal! Looks like they had great time! This butternut pumpkin and spinach looks awesome and I love the addition of feta! Pinned! Have a Happy “almost” NYE !
It would be great if more people ‘adopted’ a couple of oldsters for the holidays rather than leaving them on their own. It’s great to see another male in the group for Rob to hang out with. I remember the majority of females at the nursing home my mom was in with only a rare man or two.
Delicious looking ‘salad’ by the way. Pine nuts and pomegranates seem to be particularly popular as garnishes in salads I’ve seen recently.
Hotly Spiced says
What a lovely story, Maureen, and it shows the true spirit of Christmas – inviting people into your home and seating them around your table. And your table looks so beautiful. What interesting lives these oldies have had. I bet they can’t wait for another invite. I see Easter on the horizon! xx
Lizzy (Good Things) says
It is the greatest fear for many (my own mother included) to have to go live in a nursing home, Maureen…. you and John are champions in how to care for the elderly while they are ‘living away from home’. xox
Tania @My Kitchen Stories says
Maureen, you wear yourself out, but on such worthwhile incredibly thoughtful things. i love the story but what made me breakdown was the comment above about firstly “Lets piss them off” but mostly “nobody should wait to die”. That is the fear we all have. I sure hope someone like you is around when I am in a nursing home
I think you’ve found yourself a wonderful new holiday tradition in the spirit of sharing. GREG
claudia lamascolo says
Wow what a gorgeous spread lovely table Happy New Year
Chris Scheuer says
What a precious time! I know they loved it more than you’ll ever know – you can see that by the looks on their faces. It’s sad that the food is not good quality in so many of these places. Such a disappointment for many of these older folks as it’s the highlight of their day. I know your meal was definitely a highlight of their year!
What a wonderful Christmas feast for Rob and his friends. How nice of you to have them all over. I heard from a little bird that you are already on Santa’s good list for next year! 🙂
About time, Roberta! 🙂 I’ve gotten coal in my Christmas stocking too often.
a special meal and lovely salad
Nancy | Plus Ate Six says
Gosh I had tears in my eyes reading this Maureen – no one should wait to die. Too right. Rob and his friends all look like they are full of beans and there’s certainly nothing wrong with their appetites that’s for sure! I’m so thankful for my parents good mental & physical health.
No tears, they are having a good time and we’re looking out for them. Our next outing is a picnic and BBQ by the river. I’ve already decided the menu. 🙂
Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says
How lovely to have them all there. I bet they can’t stop talking about the dinner too! Sounds like a lot of laughs were had by all 😀
Sugar et al. says
So generous and sweet of you to have them over Maureen! I bet you made their day and touched their lives with so much joy. I wish there were more like you in this world:-) And all that gorgeous food! Could there be a better way to express your love?
Nagi@RecipeTin Eats says
You make me laugh and at the same time truly touch me with your kindness and generosity. You are honestly one of a kind Maureen. The “oldies” are so lucky they have you. I wish I was there! It sounds like my kind of evening 🙂 That salad is fab. I make a similar one – without pomegranate which is reserved for special occasions! And also I must try white balsamic, I make mine with the normal one.
When you visit we’ll see the oldies. They’ll LOVE you. I brought a chocolate cake over today and they couldn’t wait for dinner. 🙂
Nagi@RecipeTin Eats says
It seems like you take something to them every single day!!
Bam's Kitchen says
Maureen, you have a heart of gold. This is the best holiday gift of kindness- the gift of delicious dishes from the Orgasmic chef herself! I do love the freshness of your pumpkin salad and I have been craving something like this so can’t wait to try your simple but elegant dish. Wishing you and your family a super 2015
Kitchen Belleicious says
wow! I mean what a spread and what a wonderful time you all had. The pumpkin salad looks amazing and honestly I have never thought to do a pumpkin salad before during the holidays. I have done it but it ironically wasn’t during the holidays! LOL! Have a Happy New Year
Amy (Savory Moments) says
Sounds like a lovely Christmas. You food and this salad all look wonderful. Happy New Year, Maureen!
Looks great!! Wishing all the best to you this New Year! May 2015 be a wonderful year for you. 🙂
What a marvelous meal for a very special crowd! You sure exemplify the Christmas spirit! Happy New Year to you ask! xoxo
I hope you’re all having a wonderful holiday! Learn to count in kiwi please. 🙂
Amanda (@lambsearshoney) says
What a wonderful way to help others celebrate the season. Maureen, you are one hell of a daughter-in-law! Salad looks great, too.
I’m going to tell them you said that. 🙂
Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic says
What a nice holiday dinner. I would like that salad too. Happy New Year, Maureen!
Karen and Mac says
What a thoughtful heart you have Maureen; I know it must have been such a welcome break from their usual routine–with the food being ever so much better! Your pictures and post were lovely and I felt like I’d had a visit with you–but alas! I missed out on that delicious looking spinach salad, so I will have to make it myself!
The salad is worth it 🙂
Happy New Year to you both!
It’s heartening to see quality time spent with the elderly during Christmas and cooked prawns is a must too. Hope you both had a wonderful Christmas and all the best for 2015!
Laura (Tutti Dolci) says
Such a pretty and colorful salad, perfect for holiday meals!
Dear Maureen, What a nice treat for everyone.
It seems all had a great time and the food looks wonderful.
I wish you a very Happy and Blessed New Year. xo Catherine
Mary Frances says
What a wonderful afternoon and a truly marvelous gift you gave to them. You’re a saint, Maureen!!
Interesting salad combo too – I really never use pumpkin for anything but pie at Thanksgiving. I’ll have to give this a go!
Kate @ Babaganosh.org says
Ooh, adding butternut squash to a salad is a great idea. I like it when salads are bright and colorful.
What a beautiful table! Everything looks nice and it seems you had a very nice time ! Your salad looks terrific is all I need to start this year! Healthy and full of colour !
Aw that is so sweet, it made me smile. I hope they had a lovely and delicious time (which I am 100% gertain they did) Bec x
Keren @ Just One More Spoon says
Maureen, you’re so lovely! What a sweet thing you did. Sounds like you had fun too! The salad looks great. I pumpkin and pinenuts are some of my favourite things to have in a salad.
Hypnotherapy Adelaide says
I am vegan so I can easily remove the feta and make this perfect. I love pumpkin salads.