Sometimes where you plan to put your pillow at night may not be where you end up. My plan to go to Mount Magazine this weekend changed course this week and landed me at Arkansas Children's Hospital. It's a fantastic facility and has all the latest and greatest technology. They have amazing capabilities and a staff that's outstanding. The linens department however clearly is a bit under funded; they're clean but I've never seen a blanket with more holes.
So while I was consuming a bit of hospital cafeteria cuisine (now there's an oxymoron for you) I wondered how this hospital fares against others in the food department. The food they've brought into the hospital room for patients wasn't awful, some of it was even good. Most hospital food has a reputation just slightly below that of airline food... or maybe the two are slugging it out for the dining choice of last resort.
I'm not sure that reputation is a completely fair one. I had a pretty great grilled cheese sandwich tonight that came straight off the hot grill. I also had some rather spicy BBQ chips that could have some unpleasant consequences later. When I was a young teenager, I worked as a Candy Striper for a local hospital, and the food from their grill was definitely better than just "acceptable." I don't think I was the only one who was partial to specific menu items. It was working there that lead me to discover I like grape and cranberry juices. In one small town in Arkansas, it's not unusual to see Sunday lunchtime bring in a number of families still in church attire dining at the hospital cafeteria. The odd part is that they're not just visiting with a patient and the hospital was convenient; the food was the reason for the stop. Does that mean this particular hospital's food is that good or are the other selections in town that foul?
Are we judging hospital food on an unfair scale, based on what we get in restaurants? Or maybe I've been pleasantly surprised because my own expectations are just so low as I've always heard how the food is horrible.
Is there call for a good chef to run the food operations at a hospital? Maybe so. A sharp person running the kitchen operations can make a vast difference in the quality of product that comes out of that kitchen. Looking at restaurants that have closed in recent years; I know a number of them locally could have made it with better management, especially in the kitchen. A good chef can turn mediocre into magnificent with just a little extra knowledge. I've always gotten the impression most hospital cafeterias take their lead from nutritionists. Not that a nutrition specialist is a bad person to have on the team, but what's good for you can be made tastier with a little extra effort.
I guess when I really think about it, that little town has one very smart chef in charge of the kitchen of their local hospital.