It's time for a new travel guide--The Baby Boomer's Guide to Hospital Food. I'm offering to do the taste-testing and write the reviews. All I need is an RV with wireless internet. Remember that intern named Gonzo Gates, played by Gregory Harrison, on "Trapper John, M.D." who lived in an RV in the hospital parking lot? I'll do the driving myself. Sometimes I'd even be willing to go "undercover" as a secret patient or secret visitor, although it would be more harrowing and drafty than being a secret shopper.
You ask, of course, what credentials I have for the job. I've spent five years as an insider, working in a hospital kitchen making sure patients get the most nutritious and appetizing meals their doctors will allow. I've eaten in hospital cafeterias as a penny-pinching hospital employee*, and as a sleep-deprived and worried visitor hoping for a decent meal without added stress. As a patient I've learned that when the going gets rough, the tough order prune juice, and that the nurse assistant is comparing your intake versus your ouput. As a parent I've learned tricks to get sick kids to eat. As a daughter I've learned a few ways to get elderly patients to consume more liquids. I understand the frustration of opening a pack of saltines, or peeling the foil top off a container of juice without spilling. I know the magic words to say if you want a toasted peanut butter sandwich and raspberry sherbet at 2:30 a.m., as well as the winning strategy for marking menus. I understand that kitchen employees work hard and really want to get patients' meals right, but computers don't necessarily aid their efforts.
The most important thing I've learned is that the experience of a meal in a hospital MUST NOT BE AN ADDED AGGRAVATION for patients, families, or staff. Did I mention I look really cute in a hairnet?
*We won't discuss minimum wage legislation at this time.