Yacta Mache -2
All our meals were provided within our contracts, as was our room, and a cleaning lady to boot. I fell in with the other four girls as we made our way to breakfast the next morning, getting there at 8.30 in order to be ready for our 9 sharp meeting with the boss.
The dietetic office was set up with a blackboard and chairs for lectures. We would be having several lectures each week on various aspects of our work. Lois welcomed us, and told us to be seated.
“As you probably know, we were looking for 12 interns for our allotment this year, but we have ended up with one 10, 5 of you now, and the others will start in September. This means that the girls from last year will be around to help you thorough these first difficult days, and then when they go, you will be able to show the new girls around later in the year.
“Let me tell you a bit about our hospital. We are a part of the uniformed service, and when you are measured later, it will for your official uniform, which looks very much like the one the Navy wears. You are all second lieutenants in the United States Public Health Service.
“This hospital group was set up in 1930 from a basic hospital dedicated to the Coast Guard and maritime patients, which existed in a much smaller scale since about 1830. In the 1930s, President Roosevelt began a campaign to construct and maintain US Public Health Service Hospitals to serve
the military, veterans, and the general public and this seven story structure was created. We operate in patient and out patient services, emergency, surgery, and rehabilitation wards. As well as dealing with general public health problems we have been given the task of caring for members of the Coast Guard, and also the Merchant Navy. So you will see our patients are nearly all male, and there is no maternity ward or childrens' wards.
“Our work areas are divided into the Main Kitchen , where you will supervise the preparation of the food, Food Service, where you will supervise the serving of the food, and Diet Therapy, where you will be offering dietary advice to anyone on a special diet – such as diabetic, low fat, low calorie, low protein, etc. You will each have a turn in each of these areas, and will be assessed on how well you do, and marked accordingly. Jean and Carolyn, you will do Diet Therapy first, Jeannete, you will do Food Production and Ruth and Kathy , you will be in Food Service. I will later introduce you to the staff dietitians that head each of these areas.
“One thing I must make clear to you. You are adults and will be given the responsibility to see after yourselves. No one will watch you go out or clock at what time you come home. But as officers, you are expected to always act with decorum in public, and if you should bring the service into disrepute, you will be dismissed. And another thing, you may not date hospital employees or patients. Other people in the hospital who are professionals are all right, but if we find that you have broken this rule, you will be dismissed forth with.“
On and on it went, and before long, Lois took us to the laundry area, where we were asked what size dress we wore, and were each issued with seven clean crisp uniforms – some long and some short sleeved, an open collar, front buttoning, with a skirt length just below our knees. We were to wear white nylons and white shoes, which we knew in advance, so had brought with us. Our uniforms were laundered and ironed for us, and we could pick them up each week from the laundry.
Then we were measured for our woolen and cotton dress uniforms which were blue pencil skirted suits, pale blue tailored blouses, and a blue hat, which we were to wear with flesh coloured nylons and black medium heels, and white gloves. The summer uniform was just a short sleeved jacket and
skirt in light blue worn with the same hat.
We were then taken to each of the areas of speciality. The kitchen was huge, and full of men, mostly black or brown in skin colour. Wilfred was almost the only the exception, the head cook, a short sergeant major sort of person with a plump belly. They all wore white jackets, trousers and aprons, with the main cooks wearing high caps, and the minor ones wearing a sort of navy type smaller hat.
We were required to wear hairnets under our white caps when we were dealing with food. We were introduced to the Joe the butcher, who looked mighty mean with his chopper, and Marvin, the store man, who was tall and skinny and full of mischief of all sorts. The Polish diet chef was called
Sigmond, and when he found out I had Polish ancestry, he taught me to say “Yacta Mache,” which he told me meant Good Morning, and I greeted him that way for the rest of the year. I had no idea whether he was pulling my leg or not, as I never did find out what it really meant.
The assistant head chef, Otis, was a tall, young, good looking black man, who seemed a real charmer.
The Diet Therapy office had two desks, and two older dietitians were busy writing out menus for each individual. “About 20% of our patients are on special diets,” the head of this section, a short older lady said. “We visit each of them to give an initial lesson on why they have been prescribed this diet, and what it entails. Then we visit them frequently especially at meal times to see how they are coping with it.”
Food Service was the least interesting of the jobs as far as I was concerned. The food was
loaded up on trolleys that had hot or cold food sections, and the trays which were loaded with silverware and napkins were placed in side slots. The hot and cold items were added to the trays on the ward. We, as interns, would not be actually delivering any meals – just making sure they were done properly, and on time, and that the food was collected at the end of each meal, and properly returned to the dish washing area. This assignment also had responsibility for the two dining rooms – one for patients, and one for staff – with the staff subdivided into officers and others. One of our jobs was to watch the returns to see what foods were thrown away each day.
Our tour over, we were given the rest of the day off to get firmly settled in, but were told that our schedule for the next four month would start promptly the next day. We sometimes worked weekends, because of course meals were required seven days a week at a hospital. We took it in turn to be “on call” which meant the nurse on duty could contact us if she needed a meal in the middle of the night, and we would have to get up, get dressed, and go unlock the kitchen, and find and cook a suitable meal. Usually they wanted bottles of milk or a sandwich, so it wasn't too worrisome a task.
I was pleased with my first specialty, and found it no problem at all learning the requisites for each diet. We had learned it all in college, nothing was new or different really. Carolyn and I were given a pack of the following day's menus, and we had to check the records of the patients on each ward, to see which diet they had been prescribed, and then put in the choices and amounts of foods accordingly.
For instance, on a 120 gm CHO diabetic diet, the patient would be allowed two bread allowances, one milk and one protein source at breakfast, and for lunch and dinner, he could have two bread allownces, two protein and one fruit. So a typical meal would be grapefruit (nearly free of carbohydrate) porridge without sugar, with an 8 ounce carton of milk, and a slice of toast, with butter but no jam, and an egg or piece of bacon. For lunch he might have clear soup, a 4 ounce meat sandwich, a salad and a piece of fruit. For supper, he would get a 4 ounce piece of cooked meat or fish, a regular scoop of potatoes, a small helping of starchy vegetables such as carrots and a larger one of green vegetable such as spinach, and a piece of fresh fruit. When we visited the patients, we would ascertain if they preferred cereal or toast, and what kinds of meat and potatoes they liked, and so on.
There were usually two or three meat choices at each meal, with a vegetarian option.
We both enjoyed our time in this section of the job, and it usually happened that we would have at least one day off most weekends. The other girls seemed to be happy with their work too, but we saw far less of them, only meeting for our lectures, and occasionally at meal time.