About… Hospital food!

I have been saying for a while that I will write about hospital food – the butt of many jokes and adverse comments… A friend of mine once described the food as “beige”?! (in taste, appearance and selection)

I am aware that this may just sound like a whinge, which isn’t the intention, and I’m sure that the ingredients are fine when they arrive at the kitchens, and the caterers and chefs do their best to provide good cooked meals – but something goes wrong on the way.

The main problem seem to be the distribution system. The food is all cooked centrally and distributed in hot cupboards – plated and covered up. There lie two immediate problems. The first is the hot cupboard, which must be hot enough to make sure the food is transported above the legal (for food safety purpose) holding temperature – which I think is 72C. The problem is that if the cupboard is above that temperature, and kept for any length of time, it continues to cook, and dry out, so things like vegetables, pasta or rice are overdone, and wet food congeals, and dry food gets drier. Worst of all is that the plates have covers on them, and when that is removed, the smell is appalling – especially fish and some vegetables. The most successful meals are casseroles and the like.

The problem is compounded when ones sense of taste is impaired – things like mashed potato are particularly “pappy”. The choices are usually reasonable, and I suppose that it is why the food is plated up at source, but the food would spoil less if it was served to the ward in bulk, and plated up there – but of course that would make more work for the hard pressed ward staff..

The serving size is pretty incredible too – a case of less would be more! A large plate of food (that may not be very appetising) when the appetite is poor, is not helpful.

The bright side is that the puddings are usually good – crumbles, fruit pie, rice pudding (surprisingly good, and easy to swallow!) Although those seem to have stopped since the neutropenic diet started.

Ah yes, the neutropenic diet… While I am prone to infection, my food is cooked separately. That is to reduce the risk of contamination, and to ensure that foods that are “high risk”? (which includes some spices and peppercorns) for fungal infections are excluded. The result is food that can be pretty bland – boiled fish is a favourite (of the kitchens) but after it has been transported as described, the smell is awful!! Ah… for some Tuna Sushimi (but Sushi is off the menu too!)

There have been some high spots, yesterday’s lunch (akin to beef bourguignonne) was good, although the rice had gone a bit hard. But that, unfortunately, is an exception.

This has turned into a whinge – but the saddest thing is that the dieticians recognise the problem but can’t do anything about it. If only the caterers could be persuaded to visit the wards at feeding time – or perhaps if some of the food was served at the Trust’s next board meeting… Now there’s a thought!

(Just heard from one of the nurses that the food has won awards – best in the country – which it may be when it leaves the kitchen – but not at the point of delivery. Heaven help the worst…)