Firsthand foodservice experience

A sudden illness gave Lindsey Ramsey a rare opportunity to sample hospital food as a patient.

By 
Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

In my five years at FoodService Director, I’ve visited many operations to see the sights and taste the food. Mostly, I’ve visited college campuses where my sense memory from my time in college still informed my opinion of the food. The same could be said of the few schools I’ve visited. But I have never been a patient in a hospital until last week, so I felt it was my duty as an editor to report on the food I was served while there.

I was there as a result of a bad sinus infection that spread to my eye, so despite a swollen-shut blinker I was perfectly fine. My first 24 hours in the hospital I wasn’t allowed to eat anything, in case my eye required surgery, so I spent the time dreaming about food of all kinds. My friends brought me snacks from the vending machine so I’d be ready when I got the word. About 10:30 p.m. I was told I could eat until midnight, which was a blessing because I thought I was going to pass out from hunger. The nurses gave me a ham sandwich and a ginger ale, which would never be on my list of favorites, but at that moment were the best foods I have ever eaten.

I was in the hospital for five full days. I ate the hospital-provided breakfasts and lunches; dinner was usually brought to me from visiting friends. For breakfast, I kept things simple and sampled French toast, pancakes, an omelet and, finally, cereal. For lunch, my dishes included meat lasagna, a turkey burger with cheese and pasta with meatballs. I found things to be very hit or miss, which was not always the hospital's fault. I had a roommate who was in a lot of pain, which kept me up late at night, so I often slept late. This caused me to wake to a breakfast that was already cold. So the French toast and omelet definitely suffered from my sleep deprivation. The meat lasagna was the best thing I had. It was comforting, tasty and cooked well. The pasta with meatballs was way overcooked, but still edible. The turkey burger on the other hand was a gray mess of mystery meat, dunked in cheese. I only managed a few bites of it before giving up and just eating its side dish of roasted potatoes.

The experience left me in awe of many of the hospitals we write about every day. I was sad that my particular hospital didn’t have room service or retail delivery like some of the hospitals we have covered in FSD. But I was able to see just how much comfort food in the hospital can provide. And though not every dish was a hit, it still gave me something to look forward to every day.