Do hospital cafeterias deliver?

I started at my current employer as a temp last holiday season. When I started, I was terrified to bring in a lunch due to the huge number of employees and my conviction that my lunch would be stolen. So for the first couple of months, I ate nothing but a bag of SunChips from the vending machine in the middle of each of my 9 hour work days.

When I was hired on full-time in January, I was in the early stages of a manic episode. At this point I stopped eating anything at all during my work day, which was now up to 11.5 hours long. The mania subsided after a month, but by then I was so used to not eating that I still didn’t pack a lunch. Then, in mid-March, I landed in the hospital.

I was told while being wheeled from the emergency room to the psychiatric unit that the food was delicious. I trusted that opinion, but my mom insisted this could not possibly be true. She goes to a hospital in a nearby major city, rather than our local hospital, and for at least the past 5 years the menu there has been exactly the same every single day. 5 or 6 options at each meal, none of which are any good. I know, because I always taste a bite after mom pushes it away in disgust. They even manage to ruin things like lemonade (too tart and a bit watered down) and sugar cookies (not actually made with sugar, so technically they should be called Splenda cookies).

That first evening of my stay, I arrived after the normally scheduled supper time but they managed to bring me a meal anyway.  The main dish was the most amazing cheeseburger ever.  I don’t even like cheeseburgers.  Or hamburgers without cheese.  Or really like anything made with ground beef all that much.  However, this cheeseburger was delicious.

hospital-menu

Over the next few days, I was convinced they were trying to feed me to death.  Going from 2 meals a day to 3 meals and 3 snacks a day was a shock to my stomach.  Over the course of my 4-night stay, I had all of the following:

cheeseburger, fries, green beans, vanilla wafers, milk, Cheerios, milk, bacon, scrambled eggs, toast with grape jelly, coffee, milk, orange juice, orange, Swiss cheese, saltines, apple juice, coffee, milk, cold cut sandwich, vegetable soup, saltines, pretzels, mixed fruit, banana, grape juice, roast beef in gravy, mashed potatoes, carrots, dinner roll, peaches, raspberry sherbet, milk, cranberry juice, graham crackers, Froot Loops, sausage links, scrambled eggs, toast with grape jelly, Rice Krispies, milk, orange juice, coffee, Swiss cheese, club crackers, grape juice, apple juice, pork roast, baked baby potatoes, broccoli, dinner roll, pumpkin pie, grape juice, milk, coffee, meatloaf, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, dinner roll, vanilla pudding, milk, mixed fruit, banana, pretzels, apple juice, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, blueberry muffin, cranberry juice, milk, Swiss cheese, saltines, grape juice, tossed salad, grilled ham & cheese sandwich, lemon meringue pie, assorted crackers, Sierra Mist, banana, grapes, baked cod, garden rice, cheesecake, Sierra Mist, Froot Loops, grape juice, pretzels, banana, bacon, cheese omelette, bagel with cream cheese, milk, Swiss cheese, saltines, grape juice, apple juice

On the day I left, I regretted that mom could arrive before lunch.  My meals for the day were all ordered, and I was really looking forward to them.  Instead, I left less than an hour before lunch was served, and haven’t eaten anything nearly as satisfying in the 4 months since.

I returned to work on the day after I was released, and I packed a lunch.  Also, snacks for both of my breaks.  Also, we had a department meeting (affectionately known as break 1 1/2), and I asked permission from my supervisor to buy a snack from the vending machine and eat it during the meeting.  I told him the hospital had trained me to eat 6 times a day and it would be hard to readjust.  In fact, I never have readjusted.  I’m still packing lunch and snacks every day for work.

No, they still aren’t as satisfying as what I ate in the hospital.  There is something magical about food where you only have a couple of choices to reduce the stress of decision-making, then the food appears in front of you and the dirty dishes disappear without you having to lift a finger.  When you add in the fact that this magical food tasted amazing, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’ve found myself longing to go back for a week or two, just to have other people care for me.

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