The mystery of hospital food


Why is convalescent food so wretchedly awful? Who made that a rule? Not long ago I did a stint at a big city hospital where I was served some scrambled eggs so deeply unappealing that I felt bound to make do with the cornflakes. These had the texture and flavour of that shredded cardboard people use to safely pack fragile things for sending through the post. I lowered my expectations accordingly and when lunch arrived they were fully met. A roast of sorts, a slice of pork with steamed potatoes and baked pumpkin and some peas, swimming in a pool of gravy, the whole thing containing so much sodium that I worried for the cardiac cases in the ward across the way. What is this about? What’s deal with giving this muck to the sick and infirm?

The kind of food that comes out of institutions has never been the best, and we can all acknowledge there are some simple enough reasons why. Institutions need to produce food that is cheap, that can be prepared in sometimes vast quantities, that’s probably a bit ‘safe’ so the unadventurous can cope. Fair enough, but within these limits I reckon there’s a lot that can be improved. Comfort food doesn’t have to be bland beyond belief, and those cornflakes have no business near anyone recovering from an illness.

To the hard working staff of hospital kitchens around the world I throw down my jaded palette and the relevant gauntlet, which is I expect, a singed pot mitt that has seen better days. You may not win a Good Food hat award, but you would warm the hearts of a lot of people who are not having very much fun.

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