I love my food, and some (mainly my wife, staff members, and the World Health Organisation) would say I love my food too much. So when I hear about crimes committed against food it really annoys me. Hospital food usually has a bad reputation. Mass produced food in general is usually not as good. The recent trend in New Zealand hospitals is for food to be manufactured in a central location and then for all the food to be transported to all of the hospitals. Though this may make economic sense, it is makes no gastronomic sense at all.
This goes against treatment of patients as human beings. Patients are served unappealing material that may have had a natural origin at some point in its life time. It takes a lot of skill to transform random bits of plants and animals into things that resemble plastic in the way it looks and tastes. Patients are in hospitals because they are unwell, and it does no-one any favours when the food they are served makes them feel even sicker.
A plate of fish and mashed potatoes was an example that my cousin told me about. The fish was dry and rubbery, with all nutritional content having been consigned to the pages of history long ago. The mashed potato had given up its moral integrity. Having once lived in a hole in the ground, the potato had been harshly dragged into the light. Flayed whilst still alive, and then subjected to a death by a thousand cuts. Turned into tiny molecules of potato, smashed into uniform shapes. Then dried out along with billions of similarly shaped friends, and repackaged. Add water to make instant mash potato. Instant it may have become, but potato it was in name only.
Two previously alive ingredients had been transmogrified into grey shadows of their former selves, grey fish, and grey ‘potato’ combined together on a grey plate. What could make the dish even more desirable, heck why not some lovely fresh cabbage. From a fresh beginning it was exposed to a mad scientist who was intent on corrupting the innocent cabbage. Changing its natural form by boiling it in so much bland water that the cabbage could no longer decide if it was a liquid or a gas. Well in terms of aroma the decision had already been made as the cabbage now had the fragrance of a stale bottled fart.
This lovely plate of ‘food’ was presented to my cousin and other hapless patients, and to make matters worse, sauce was added. No, we are not talking about a reduced red wine jus, or a sumptuous hollandaise sauce. No way, no how. Some macerated wheat seeds were tortured over a hot sauce pan. Roux was the intended product but rough was the actual procedure. Four letter word, starts with G, ends with G. Not quite GLUE, but similar in consistency. That’s right, GLUG.
Of course you do not expect fine dining to be served in a hospital ward setting, but some food would be nice for a change.
What was for dinner last night darling?
Fifty Shades of Grey.
You watched the movie last night in hospital? Weren’t you worried about your stitches popping out?
No, I had Fifty Shades of Grey on my plate. I really don’t understand why I’ve been losing weight since being admitted to hospital. Must be the severe illness I am experiencing.
Does it have to be that way? Does hospital food have to be bad? Not if I have something to do with it. I want to start a Hospital Palatable Care team to improve quality of food, not to be confused with the Hospital Palliative Care team who improve quality of life. Save the carrots, save the potatoes, save the beef. They will ensure that food tastes like food, instead of tasting like illness. Nutritional therapy will become part of hospital therapy. It won’t be fine dining, but it will make you feel finer. Its not that you have lost your sense of taste, its the food that has lost all molecules associated with taste.
The Hospital Palatable Care team will be coming to a hospital ward near you. Their job is to restore brightness to the bland landscape of the hospital palate. Gastrophysical geniuses going for gold. Leaving a trail of smiles everywhere they go. I have a dream, I have a vision, that hospital plates will help to restore health instead of trying to restore wealth. Food destroyers let this be your final warning. We are coming to free flavours from your evil clutches.
Hospital Palatable Care,
Will soon be everywhere.
Hospital kitchens be afraid,
No more food colours will fade.
Tastebuds will rejoice,
As the food will taste noice.
Plates with an artistic gastronomic smear,
That’s what you’ll get with Hospital Palatable Care!