Monday, 12 May 2008

English cuisine

Chips get a bad press, I think. In fact, I think that English cuisine gets a bad press. Personally, I think we have some of the most wonderful food in the world: roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, fish and chips, steak and chips, Balti and chips, spam, spam, spam and chips - these dishes are rather wonderful, and, along with Edward Elgar and Charles Dickens, are among the few things that inspire a certain patriotism in my knees (the organ of patriotism is definitely the knees).
As I say, English cuisine gets a bad and unfair press; however, there's a reason for this. Fish and chips can be a transcendent experience; but it can also be unbelievably disgusting. English cuisine, like English weather, is remarkably adaptive: Sunday lunch can be a substitute for church, or a visit to the crypt. Fish and chips can be a heavenly pub lunch washed down with beer in the sun, or it can be, erm, well, hospital food.
Yesterday, Maria passed me a hospital chip. She's been having hospital chips now for over two weeks. This was the first time I tasted one. This was also the last time I tasted one. It tasted like socks. Dead socks. Dead socks left on the floor for two weeks. Dead socks left on an unhoovered floor for two weeks after a disgusting party.
Oh my goodness, it was unbelievably awful.
So, we've all been exercised by the Jamie-Oliver-save-school-dinners campaign - which is all well and good - but hospitals still serve dead socks to patients. Healthy eating is now promoted in schools, but in the places where health is meant to matter, dead socks are still acceptable. In fact, hospital patients are allowed to eat dead socks morning, noon and night. Dead socks are served in maternity wards, cancer wards, and - believe it or not - heart disease wards.
It's great that dead socks are now less popular in schools. But at least in schools you can go home. In hospitals, there's no going home - there's no getting out for much of the time. So if dead socks are on the menu morning, noon and night, you'll have to eat dead socks morning, noon and night.
Interestingly, as a postscript, we managed to get out yesterday to the hospital restaurant, which is run by the same (how do we put this without getting sued?) corporation. And there, for a few quid, you can buy chips which taste slightly better than dead socks. So it's not that the corporation is incapable of half-decent chips. It's that patients - the people who really need healthy, decent, well-balanced food - don't pay so don't matter, and can therefore put up with the bargain-basement-you-don't-pay-so-you-have-to-suffer version of English cuisine.
Of course, the fact that the patients do pay is by the by.


blog by Kathz said...

When I was in hospital having a baby nearly twenty years ago the staff were confused by the idea that I'm a vegetarian. I'm very fond of potatoes (Irish ancestry and all that) and not too worried about nutrition but a meal that consisted of mashed potato and chips (small quantities and nothing else) didn't seem quite right. It was not good mashed potato. And they were pretty awful chips.

But I seem to remember assurances that contracting out hospital food would lead to a rise in standards ... Well, I didn't believe it then.

Fairy Telltale said...

When I was in hospital last year and finally able to eat, I was presented with (after a good 2 hour wait)a bowl of watery jelly.
"sorry," the nurse said. "Everything else has dairy in it." And giving me a look of disapproval and sighing in annoyance she said "dunno how you people can live without dairy too."
Confused, I told her that I wasn't allergic dairy and she said "yes, but you're vegetarian aren't you?". Before I could explain, she hurried off down the ward tut tutting and shaking her head.

Luckily my mum arrived soon after with tupperware full of yumminess.