Hospital Food - I always wanted to be a gastronomer Blog at - 330618

I always wanted to be a gastronomer

Hospital Food 
Jul. 25, 2014 9:54 pm 
Updated: Jul. 31, 2014 5:24 am
I've been thinking about this blog subject for some time. Hospital food as a rule has garnered a reputation for being tasteless and boring. The subject of many jokes and a long running cause of many a long face on folks having to stay in hospitals.

My only stay in a hospital occurred back in the summer of 1997. I'd managed to have an accident at work that severed all of the fingers on my left hand, thusly I did then spend the next 17 days in hospital in Calgary AB. Now in Canada, medical care is free so as you can imagine when its your taxes paying for a service, everything is prioritized in Canadian medicine. Bigger centers get better medicine and more money for the kind of medical teams that can re-attach fingers and the like. So the medicine IS there when you need it but other things suffer, Staffing is sometimes not up to snuff and the pay that support staff and doctors receive in Canada while not bad, is scanty compared to what US doctors and support staff receive. Further down the line is food and like everywhere I assume, the food is abysmal.

When I was in, every day was an offering that looked ok, but tasted awful. Mashed potatoes from flakes, unsalted everything, fish sticks and jello. I remember a friend coming to see me with a bag full of Burger King, boy was I happy to see that guy. My daily victuals got better once I got mobile, they had a Starbucks styled coffee shop in the lobby that featured the beans and sprouts kinda wraps and sandwiches that seemed to be all the rage there for awhile. The day I was released from the hospital I walked straight across the highway and into a Steakhouse and ordered up a piece of Prime Rib only too late did I remember that I couldn't cut it with just one hand, sheesh. The waitress helped me out...

At any rate, as time has passed, nothing had ever dissuaded me of the idea that hospital food was terrible stuff and then I met a gal from the US. We got together and had a child. The pregnancy was a tough one right from the get go and by the end of the second trimester she was diagnosed with full on Placenta Previa and bedridden in hospital. At first she was in Vernon BC, the they shipped her down to the Royal Columbian in Burnaby BC. The care was deficient, one nurse for 8 high risk pregnancy patients. Food? Forget about it, these girls were having a hard enough time trying to just get water. Ultimately she was saved by Blue Cross who for some reason was balking at continuing to pay for Canadian medicine, and she was air lifted to Swedish Medical Center is Seattle Washington.

So this is where my knowledge of hospital food changed forever. The rest, the care, the support staff, thats another story, it was much better than Canadian, but the food...geez. I knew the hospital was a bit out of the norm when I discovered valet parking for your car. The next discovery was that every patient in the high risk pregnancy ward had a private room and every private room had a chair that turned into a bed, for the father! Then came the food. There was no cart that showed up thrice daily filled with awful food. Instead, we had menus, like in a fine hotel and we ordered from that, room service. We had nachos amd hot dogs, and beef dips and pizzas and milkshakes and so on, wonderful stuff. I finally got to ask someone about this and they told me that the menu style of food service was a pilot program at Swedish that  they were trying out and that to that time, it was proving to be a wild success. How they defined that success was by how much it cost and the cost? Less than their traditional fare. The reason was that because patients were consuming the food, instead of picking at it, they got better faster reducing their time in hospital and at 3000.00 a day for some of these folks, an extra 20$ spent on food was nothing in comparison.

I often wonder if this program has spread to other hospitals? Did they keep it at Swedish? Have any of you any experience with this?
Jul. 25, 2014 10:31 pm
Having spent a fair amount of time in hospitals with various family members over the years, I've had a chance to see first hand how much better hospital food is now compared to 2 decades ago. Restaurant style menu options are the going thing. I've seen this first hand at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, SW Washington Medical Center in Vancouver, Wa., and Salem Hospital, Salem Oregon, and Silverton Hospital, Silverton, Or. I do think its a great idea and the logic behind it, is good thinking put to action.
Jul. 26, 2014 2:55 am
Ended up in the hospital (Balboa Naval Medical Center) with a severe toe infection (darned near lost it) and was dianosed wih type 2 diabetis and dehydration (to much beer). Special diet for all 6 days low salt, low fat low carb, Iam italian/german I want pasta, italian sausage, bratwurst knokwurst and a side of cow. I am not tolerant of portion control. That being said, the food was good not, great, but good, it was healhty. I would say that 6 days moved me toward a better diet thank god herbs and spices seem to be good for you. I eat more veggies now but I wish prime rib grew on a bush and pork grew in rows like carrots. The hospital that seems to have the best food service just may be Huntsman Cancer Institute I have stayed in hotels that didn't have menus like this. Meal times are when you want it! Lets just say you get out of chemotherapy at 5:30 in most hospitals your meal is in your room getting cold or it arrives at 6:00 (most likely cold too) either way you don't want to eat you just got out of chemotherapy. At Huntsman you can call room service. Check it out at you will be impressed
Jul. 26, 2014 3:08 pm
Re: Swedish Hospital..Seattle. It's located just a few blocks from Pike Market for one thing. I had a pleasant experience..was a tourist in town trying to find said Pike Mkt...trotted up to doorman person at Swedish..who invited us to hop aboard their Emerg. vehicle getting ready to go our way..BTW said vehicle was luxurious, fully fitted..what a wonderful welcome to Seattle..I've loved it ever since.
Jul. 26, 2014 4:04 pm
I was hospitalized in 2005 in our local hospital, whose reputation was just so-so. While the building itself was rundown, my care was top notch and I was amazed at the excellent food. I spent a week this past spring in another hospital nearby, which was highly touted and while I did recover, it was no tanks to the inefficient staff or the poor excuse poor food. Yes there was a menu, but what they served was mainly chemical. Orange drink with artificial color and flavor. An alleged high nutrition drink that had no food or drink products in it. The few real food items were nuked and disgusting. I will never go back there again.
Jul. 26, 2014 7:57 pm
I was in the hospital last June for 8 days. I was very sick and did to want to eat,but every day they would bring me a tray. I kid you not, that food was all the same color, who would want to eat that? I'm also lactose intolerant, which they knew, but everyday, there was milk and ice cream on the tray. I'm hoping not to go back there for a very, very long time..
Jul. 27, 2014 7:52 am
While it's been several years since I was a patient, I eat hospital food as a staff member most working days. It has it's ups and downs...some meals I enjoy, others, not so much. Our patients complain more about the volume of food (too much) than the taste of food. Based on the diet ordered, they get to chose between two menus. We are always happy to get snacks, and most patients who are in for any length of time have homemade food brought in at some point. But our cooks work hard to provide a variety of foods, so most patients are happy at least part of the time.
Jul. 27, 2014 10:42 am
My husband and I have an on-going joke about our vacations spent in the local hospitals! As a heart patient that also becomes anemic quite easily and has been transfused a bazillion times, I have first hand experience of hospital food from Maui to Jacksonville, Florida. My latest hospital stay was for a torn esophagus and anemia from the blood loss. Liquid diet only. Broth from boullion cubes never tasted better! I have never had the pleasure of ordering from the menu do due dietary restrictions, although menus were available at every hospital I've stayed at. I think that I'll stay home and work at taking care of myself. My homecooked food has to be better than hospital food!
Jul. 27, 2014 11:36 am
when the wife was at the shepherd center in buckhead, we would go down for lunch ( when she was able ) and eat. everything organic and fresh and very interesting meal choices. some of the best food I've ever eaten. great blog.
Jul. 27, 2014 1:00 pm
When my mom was at the hospital for a surgery, the food she had was pretty good. Whatever she didn't want or couldn't finish, I tasted. The grilled cheese was ok. :)
Jul. 27, 2014 1:50 pm
I had both hips replaced, different yrs. in a specialty hospital in Columbus Ohio which is more like a 5 star conference center..patients come from all over the world they say. Anyway, fantastic food, available all hrs....just phone them.
Jul. 28, 2014 10:32 am
I have heard about hospitals offering menus and ordering when you want. Sounds like a good idea to me.
Erin Elaine 
Jul. 28, 2014 2:58 pm
I have been in the hospital several times due to complications of !y MS. Always at Univ. Of Rochester Strong Memorial in Rochester, NY. Usually to be hospitalized I am in pretty rough shape, but I have to say I actually look forward to the food. Menu style any time you want until 9 pm. My husband will pop in after work to visit me and he can get a meal for $6.00 so we can eat together. Conversely, my one short stay after an accident in Ottawa proved that the difference in food was very apparent. Though care was good, I did have to wait 2 days ffor MRI.
Jul. 28, 2014 9:05 pm
Hi everyone, wow, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that this has become prevalent but I am a little. All too often it seems like when something makes too much sense it's abandoned in favor of some bumbleheads 'better' idea. I don't know if this has caught on anywhere in Canada. I suspect not seeing as how they all share the same socialistic mandate. Elaine, when I was at Swedish, it was 6.00 for everyone else wh wanted to dine with us, I, as the father of the baby to be, was free.
Jul. 30, 2014 8:06 am
I haven't ever had an extended stay in a hospital myself (knock on wood) but the last time I visited my grandmother she also had a restaurant-style menu and room service. They eat better there than I could ever cook at home! Asian chicken salads, pot roast, salmon picatta...made me want to stay!
Jul. 31, 2014 5:24 am
Hello! I started to read just your first few lines and straight away thought back to when I had my wee ones. My husband and I LOVED the hosp food! Hand to goodness one of the best hotdogs either of us have ever had! hahahah When I had my twins (2nd and third wee ones) one night my husband could not come up for dinner so I asked a friend to come and eat. She was like "Hosp Food - NO WAY" Well she came and just could not believe! lol
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About Me
Let's see, in keeping it to a subject, at age 22 I had a filet doused in Bernaise sauce aboard a train. That was it, I was hooked on fine food. Living in a small town necessitates learning to cook well to maintain that stellar menu.
My favorite things to cook
Oh man, only a thousand characters? My favorite things to cook are items that make YOU happy. I'll try anything and thus far it would be far easier to list those things I don't like than those I do. So far, I hate Cilantro and I'm allergic to green chiles. It's a short list.
My favorite family cooking traditions
My Christmas dinner. Usually in December, sometimes early January. I've a waiting list of people who wish to be invited. Alas, I've only a service for 10. We're talking silver, Noritake, crystal stemware, crisp linens, fine wines paired appropriately and a menu that's usually derived from a theme.
My cooking triumphs
Every smile, every gasp of delight, every accolade, such sweet victory!
My cooking tragedies
A Cioppino recipe I found here. I served it as part of one of those Christmas dinners and the cod was a poor choice. It was terrible, ghastly fishy taste. I've since learned a thing or two about freshness in fish. Prior to that, hmm perhaps when I was 10, I made a spice cake that called for whole cloves....hey, that's what it said on the outside of the bottle, whole cloves....
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