Clerk: Hello, I’m pleased to meet you. I’m the clerk of the kitchen at the Cosy Apartment Feline Sanitarium. You’re my new assistant, are you?
Assistant: That’s right. I’m looking forward to getting to work.
C: Excellent. I should warn you that some of our residents have severe restrictions on their diets; others are, well, idiosyncratic. Because of that, we maintain a great variety of foods.
A: Oh, I worked for several years in the kitchens at Parliament. I am used to demanding diners.
C: Good, good. Take for instance Princess Camarouska Albigensia, also known as Cammie. She is blind, from a recent stroke.
A: Oh, that’s terrible.
C: Well, her serene highness is adapting quite well, but her diet is challenging. She can eat only three kinds of food, the Z/D hard and the Z/D soft, and the Orijen hard.
A: That sounds straightforward.
C: Well, yes, but if she eats even a morsel of anything else, she risks drastic allergic reactions that will require hospitalisation.
A: Good Heavens!
C: We try to keep her away from the Orijen, but it will do her little harm if she eats it. Anything else has very serious consequences. She also eats at times in between regular meals. But you will know when she asks for food.
A: How does she ask for food?
C: She sometimes will sit up and look straight ahead.
A: That seems…ambiguous…
C: Her highness also will sit and move back and forth, searching for her dish. You will need to have one of the waiters provide her filled dish at such times, placing it before her. Sometimes she will eat in bed, other times in her corner of the dining room. Then again, she may be in another room and need to be coaxed back to her lodgings before service.
A: Coaxed? May I pick her up?
C: NO! Good Lord! We’d never hear the end of it. And the noise her highness would make would disrupt all the other diners’ meals. And just because she is blind doesn’t mean she may not be able to find others’ food, or its remnants.
C: Yes. You will have to crawl along the floor and pick up any bits and pieces of soft food from around the emptied bowls of other diners.
A: That, er, wasn’t in the job description.
C: Tell me about it. As well, it’s been discovered that her highness likes a few drops of water added to her Z/D soft-food, and warm it in the micro-wave oven for a few seconds, but not if it’s from a freshly opened tin. Oh, and if she will not return to her lodgings for her meals, she can be fed where she is, but she won’t eat much; she will need to have the rest of her meal given to her once she does return to her residence. Right. Now, there’s Tucker R Poly. He’s diabetic, so he needs low carbohydrate food.
A: Well, that should be easy.
C: He will be afraid of breakfast.
C: He tends to throw up in the mornings, before everyone else is awake. So he often will not eat much right away, because he’s anxious about throwing it up. But he will eat about half an hour later, when all others are done breakfast. He also may not like what he is served, in which case you will have to offer several dishes. And once in a while, crush a treat over the portion he is refusing to eat.
A: That’s a bit time consuming, isn’t it?
C: You should see the house I bought recently with my over-time. When he hasn’t had any soft-food for a while, we will cut up some roasted chicken to tempt him, which we will also give at other times, as a treat. Now, Mr Poly is toothless, so any fare that is bulky or stringy will need to be sliced. And he is messy.
A: Plenty to clean up?
C: Quite so. He will also demand food that the staff is eating: chicken, pork, ground beef, toast, potato chips, ice cream.
A: And he’s not allowed to have any?
C: That’s right. But we give him small amounts, anyway. It’s against the rules, but Mr Poly makes such a squeaky noise when he sees human-food that he’s hard to resist.
A: Well, having two difficult diners isn’t bad.
C: Two. Yes, well… Then, there is Miss Josefina von Chubs.
C: Austrian, but only by descent. She can be demanding. She is…mature…so she sounds somewhat like a series of gears in great need of grease or oil. But she likes a number of foods, though she may at first refuse one that she will then eat if you pick up her bowl and place it in front of her again. Or she may not. She may decide not to eat a second portion of what she just ate. And she throws up her food now and then.
C: No, just a sensitive stomach. You’ll have to learn how to judge when she has had enough, and when you can give her more; she herself cannot discern the difference. She will also demand very vocally some of the princess’s Z/D hard-food. We are permitted to give her some as a treat, but not as much as she wants. She will sometimes throw her food outside the bowl and eat it from the floor, so hers is a danger to her highness. Are you taking notes?
A: I am now…
C: Renfrew Foster works here, but dines with the residents. He eats very little. We think he absorbs many of his nutrients from the air. He will often sleep through meal-times, or simply hide.
C: No, complacent. But when he is hungry, he will be obvious about it. But that doesn’t mean he will eat anything you give him. And when he chooses not to eat it, heating it a little may induce him to change his mind. And his appetite is sometimes determined by where he is: on the table, on the dining room floor, on a couch…
A: Wouldn’t it be easier to have all the residents eating together in the dining room?
C: Hahahahahaha! It’s good to have a sense of humour in this job. Now, our newest resident, Raleigh, presents his own challenges.
A: Sorry. I missed that bit. The blinding headache I suddenly developed rendered me insensible for a moment.
C: Raleigh. He’s Dr Bellen’s charity case. He’s doing quite well, actually. Dr Bellen is confident that Raleigh won’t be a permanent resident here. He’s the only one who feels that way.
A: What’s wrong with him?
C: Dr Bellen? Don’t get me started.
A: No, Raleigh.
C: Oh, yes, Raleigh. He has FIV, and stomatitis.
A: Oh, my. The poor fellow.
C: He takes medicine for the stomatitis, and it needs to be included in his food twice a day. It is a pill, easily crushed and, thankfully, tasteless, so he eats it with his food. Most of the time, he gobbles up his first portion without hesitation, and this is followed with smaller portions, depending upon his hunger.
A: Most of the time?
C: There are exceptions. His appetite varies during the day; Dr Bellen thinks that it is influenced by the FIV, or, rather, the sometimes lowered degree of health that FIV causes from time to time. Now and then, Raleigh will not feel like eating. But this usually does not persist all day. If he skips luncheon, he will normally make it up at dinner. Therefore, we give him his first dose of medicine early, with breakfast; his second, at dinner. If he doesn’t want dinner, then at snack-time.
A: Does he have a means of letting us know if he wants to eat? Raising an eyebrow? Winking? Semaphore, perhaps?
C: He becomes very vocal and forward; sometimes he will scratch at the corner of a wooden furnishing.
A: Just at the corner? And only wooden furniture?
C: That’s right. Now, even when he wants to eat, he will not always eat what is put in front of him. He usually will, but periodically he will glance up as if what he is served is not what he ordered. That’s bad because his medicine will be in that portion, and he must consume it. When this event happens, the first solution attempted will be to place a small amount of food that you know to be more amenable to him on top of the refused food.
A: And if that doesn’t work?
C: Then replace the first course with a small, second course of the preferred food. Once that is consumed, bring back the refused dish, with the small dollop of preferred food on top. He almost always then eats the initially refused food with its medicine.
A: Good Heavens. This is a very complicated system.
C: We take pride here at the Cosy Apartment Feline Sanitarium of catering to our residents’ needs, no matter how fussy they may be. But not to worry: we have printed up this handy guide for our dining room staff.
A: I think I’m having a panic attack.
C: Ah, in that case refer to page 782.
A: What happens if you are ever absent from the kitchen or dining room at meal-times? Surely the waiters can’t know all the rules. Who would ever be able to manage all of these arrangements, aside from you?
C: What do you mean, ‘absent’?
A: If you go away for holiday, or are too sick to oversee the meals?
C: I don’t know what you mean…
A: If you simply aren’t here to feed everyone?
C: . . . Anyway, familiarise yourself with the rules. The guide-book is a tremendous help; we of course are constantly updating it, so please register for our weekly revisions, and the daily bulletins.
A: It seems like a tremendous responsibility. But I am sure the diners appreciate all the hard work.
C: Hahahahaha! Your humour will be a great asset to the staff. Now that I’ve described some of the routine, let me tell you about the difficult bits of the job…