Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Paddy Murray Is (not that) Unwell (he hopes) VI

THIS is like the longest flight I’ve ever been on.
I’m not on a plane and I’m certainly not going anywhere.
I’m stuck in a hospital. And it reminds me of flying.
It’s the food.
If you accept that a chicken is a chicken and a potato is a potato and a pea is a pea, it is hard to credit the way the different ways those ingredients end up on your plate in, say, l’Ecrivan or Chapter One and in hospital or, indeed, on a flight or in boarding school.

We can only presume that, particularly in hospital, the ingredients are pretty decent. It seems unlikely that, despite the fact that our government has deemed the appointment of more committee chairmen to be of greater importance than financing the health service, hospital kitchens are supplied with dodgy ingredients.
And I accept, entirely, that cooking for 700 differs greatly from cooking for seven.
But it is nonetheless mind-boggling, how a piece of chicken can end up as part of a magnificent meal in l’Ecrivan, albeit at a price, and can, when served in hospital (or on a flight or in boarding school) make you enquire as to the location of the nearest McDonald’s restaurant.
(You will note that, today, I am not talking about wine or Guinness or pubs or anything of that sort. Mind you, I quite liked the suggestion of a hospital bar offering pre or post theatre drinks. Wonder if there’s an interval during which you could order them?)
My first encounter with food produced on an industrial scale was in an Irish College. My parents, though they loved me, handed me a nine-month sentence in the place from which I would have escaped had I been able to dig a tunnel.
The food was typically industrial.
You know. Take ordinary ingredients and cook them until they are bereft of flavour.
But was Fridays which were most memorable.
On that day, we were served what we were assured was a vegetable soup.
It consisted, I am sure, of the vegetables which had not been eaten during the week, boiled. In milk.
I kid you not.
These vegetables, carrots onions potatoes, peas and turnips, were boiled in milk until they were soft and mushy. And then they were served up to us unfortunate children.
We called it “Chef’s vomit.” I never found out if that was to do with taste or appearance or both.
Having served my sentence in that Irish c ollege in Ring, Co Waterford, I was later sentenced to nine months behind bars (not that type) in my last year in school in Blackrock College. (That sentence was, at least, deserved.)
They were way ahead of the game when it came to recycling.
Because on Mondays, we got a kind of beef chop which was, largely, inedible.
On Tuesdays, it was some type of beef stew, made, we believed, with the uneaten portions of the chops.
On Wednesdays, it was mince and mash, constructed, or deconstructed, from the uneaten stew.
On Thursdays, we got a beef soup and you can figure out from where it came.
We got fish on Fridays by which time we were so hungry we would have eaten the beef chops.
I managed to largely avoid institutions until this damned disease forced me to spend time in hospital.
But long-haul flights more than made up for that. You know the feeling: “I ordered the fish, this is chicken.” “Sorry sir, that is fish, no, hold on, it’s pork, no, it’s definitely the fish sir.”
I have had, don’t get me wrong, edible airline food. The nuts aren’t bad. And the occasional biscuit is passable.
In fact, it’s not that the food is actually inedible. Hunger makes the food edible.
It’s just that I wonder why someone somewhere goes to all the trouble of removing taste from things like chicken and potatoes and peas. I wonder why they don’t leave some flavour so you have a small clue as to what it is you’re eating.
It’s what they do in hospitals too.
I would love our health minister or indeed, the head of the Health Service Executive, to live for a week, if they could, on hospital food.
I am not suggesting the food is other than healthy.
It’s healthy enough.
Unless you’re talking about mental health.
Because it’s depressing in the extreme.
Mind you, now that I think of it, it’s not so bad that it couldn’t be improved if accompanied by a decent claret.


Paddy's World said...

HOSPITAL FOOD LATEST: I had the chicken curry tonight. There was no chicken in it. Honestly. Not a feather. Nothing. Just rice, curry sauce and peppers. Strewth!

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you are out of there. Hopefully you will get some decent grub tonight and it won't be long before you have a pint or a glass of wine in your hand.

I have enjoyed reading your daily blogs though!

Hope you feel alot better soon Dara