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 béchamel? 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
Sick bay supping,
have any good ideas?