Thursday, July 23, 2009

Blue plate special

I keep seeing advertisements for the new movie, Julie & Julia, which is being released on August 7. The movie doesn’t look as though it will be particularly good, but the premise -- modern day Julie deciding to blog her way through cooking every recipe in Julia’s “Joy of Cooking,” is an interesting one, and similar to one I had regarding hospital food.

My idea was to make more of a hospital food survival guide. To educate the people on what is safest to order if you’re going to be stuck inside for more than a day or two. There are some basic rules that patients would do well to follow, as well as some surprising culinary high points.

After 28 straight days, plus two shorter stays in April and May, I’m becoming quite versed on the topic. And while I only know this hospital’s meals intimately, I tend to think a lot of hospitals are not that different. Sure, there are some with gourmet meals, apparently the Chili-lime crab cakes at Colorado's Montrose Memorial Hospital and the Black Forest ham panini with smoked gouda and apple preserves at New York's Columbia Presbyterian hospital are especially noteworthy. And there has been a recent movement to incorporate more organic, seasonal foods into hospital cuisine in some parts of the country. But overall, I think most hospitals still have average food at best. I know that’s true for this hospital.

In general, here’s what you want to know. Always order the soup, even if you want the side salad too, because sometimes those side salads are just not as green as you’d like, and the prepackaged individual dressings leave much to be desired. The soups, however, are almost always good, they’re your consistent safe bet. Even if you hate everything else on the tray, a nice bowl of warm soup and a buttered roll can make a decent meal.

Pasta is safe too. At worst it’s bland, at best it’s delicious. I had a scrumptious white sauce vegetable lasagna the other night, perhaps more aptly called spinach lasagna b├ęchamel? Yummy.

Salad entrees are a mixed bag. I’ve found that the simpler ones are the best. The grilled vegetable salad, the spinach salad, and of course the fresh fruit platter are all good bets, hard to mess up, I suppose. Some of the attempts at more creative salads, however, fall short, way short, so be wary of the ‘Asian spicy’ or ‘Chipotle chicken' type salads, they’re poor imitations of similar sounding salads that can be so good on the outside.

And here is the most important rule of all, stay away from the meat, especially the meat dishes that resemble beef. They’re bad, time after time. The so called lunch meat is also suspect. I’m fairly certain I’ll never view turkey sandwiches the same again. Revolting.

But there are some bright spots.

Take for instance today’s lovely pea risotto, which was served as a lunch side. Although it could definitely be improved upon, it was good, and something I’d actually like to incorporate into my own recipe repertoire once I’m out. Or, the incredibly good tortilla soup. I’ll admit that I like most tortilla soups, but this hospital version is lovely, and I’ve found it to be consistent from week to week. I’d actually like their very recipe.

Anyway, you ge the point. You need to have a strategy.

So someday perhaps I’ll write my book. I think I’ll call it:

Beth’s bedside banquet

or

Sick bay supping,

or

have any good ideas?

5 comments:

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Ugh, it so totally sucks that you can't even enjoy the best part of being pregnant: gorging yourself on limitless whims for food. I wonder if they would give you the soup recipe -- or if you'd really want to see whatever it is that makes something prepared in bulk taste so good. Hey, I've got some delicious chicken and black bean enchiladas left over from last night's dinner that have your name written all over them for today's lunch. OR if you have some crazy hankering, call me before 11 and I'll make it happen.

See you later
Jacquie

Me, You, or Ellie said...

I love your casual, "once I'm out". So big-house reminicent.....

And I did not know Julia and Julia is a movie! I loved that story when I read it in the Times a few years ago. Hmmm. Sounds like I missed the book, too....

Remind me to tell you my hospital food story. Maybe later this afternoon. *IF* you're lucky.....

Ellie

Kathi D said...

Are people allowed to sneak in food for you, or are you on a restricted diet? I think you need a good burger.

Mar Waters said...

OK, I have no idea if folks suffering from pneumonia, hospital or wild, lose their appetite, but since I equate delicious food & drink with optimum health I’d like to categorize the dishes I’d bring to you if I lived within a reasonable driving distance to your bedside...

First and foremost would be a Pasquale Cucumber Salad, from the black sand beaches of Mexico, with 20’ waves, palapas bars lining the shore and that cute surfer from Texas. It was hot, but the beer was cold and all the tables had fresh slices of cucumber dressed with minced jalepeno, sea salt and vinegar...and we were young & tan with sun-bleached hair and beautiful boys to entertain us, still in the top 5 summers ever...

& the egg bagels with avo and melted jack cheese (these days I add a dash of garlic salt) that were served at Serra Hall before the giant student union at USD and then later at the Owl & Monkey (Holey Bagel too?), just for pals...

& a small Saska’s salad with blue cheese, I’d replicate it somehow...

& some flour tortilla chips from the old Newport Annies (I’d even sneak you a Meyer’s Dark and pineapple, 2 for 1 all night Wednesday!)...

& maybe a kind veggie burrito, but NOT one of those tiny, vegan muffins from Jerry on the Eel...I think there must still be some in the freezer at 1234...

& definitely OUR kind veggie sandwich on dark squaw bread with avo, tomato, carrot, cucumber, sprouts, lettuce, optional jack cheese slice and vinegarette...those were the best, for $2 we couldn’t make ‘em fast enough, remember the line?...

& quinoa, just plain, perhaps with a dash of tamari, remember Rachel and the tofu with soy sauce? ...

& a steamed artichoke with lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt...

& some Chips & Guac from a Regrettos like we had that night in MB at around 4 AM after some show, how hobbitty MB could be under the right circumstances...

& a Doggie-dilla, made with a tofu dog rolled in a spelt tortilla, naturally, and just a tad of shredded chedda to add a little lube dressed with raw saurkraut, we’re addicted and I predict you will be too...

ooh, & and a train-station Brie sandwich...

Love you,
Mar

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Wow, Mar, that was terrific! Thankfully I was eating something while reading it, or it would have been painful.

Train station brie sandwiches -- is there anything better? A big fat kind veggie burrito is a close second. And a Meyers and pineapple would be sooo welcome right now too. Yummy.

I had completely forgotten about the Pasquale cucumber salad, but I have to agree about that summer, one of the best ever (the very one when I met my husband, 20 years ago this summer, in fact... How the hell did THAT happen?!).

But I have to say that I do not remember the line for our kind veggie sandwiches....maybe I was off doing nitrous hits?

Beth