I’ll Have What the Doctor Ordered
I must admit, I have probably spent more time in hospitals than someone my age should. Whether it has been for professional reasons, my own health needs or to visit others, it seems like every month I am walking along sterile hallways with my shoes squeaking. Despite these regular visits, whenever I think of hospitals, more than anything else, I always think about hospital food.
Truthfully, I love hospital food! At this point you probably have the image of lukewarm, processed fare being wheeled down the hallway in a large blue cart—and immediately think I am crazy.
Typical hospital food is the same as any institutional cafeteria: half cooked grilled cheese, jello, aluminum tasting tomato soup, stale coffee, etc… Not particularly inventive or interesting, but that is part of why I think I love it so much. Hospitals are always stressful and this familiar food is comfort. Maybe it’s even more than comfort. Maybe it is that hospital food allows us to step away from a family or friend’s bedside to find the cafeteria and forget about things for a few minutes while eating chicken fingers and watery honey mustard. Maybe it’s the reality that when you’re admitted to the hospital, it is extremely monotonous and mealtime is one of the few things to look forward to. Maybe it’s just the ironic fact that a lot of hospital food has enough salt and fat to sedate an elephant. Whatever the reason, bad hospital food is a wonderful thing to me.
After I had eaten some overcooked carrots, roast chicken and a lil plastic cup of cranberry juice the other day, I began to think about all these things. We ask a lot of our food. Besides expecting it to taste great, we expect it to nourish and excite us. We derive parts of our identity from food and impart a great deal of emotional heft to it. Sometimes it serves to expand our horizons and sometimes it just brings us a sense of comfort and safety. The fact that you’re reading Endless Simmer today is proof that food means these things to you, and probably a lot more.
As a few weeks pass, I will start sharing some other food and drink experiences and may even find myself railing against the large conglomerates that oversee industrial food services, but for today, I will give them a pass. I suppose that comforting isn’t always what’s best but sometimes it is just what the doctor ordered.