Sake Gumi

As my introductory post, I would like to tread upon virgin Umami Mart territory... DUN DUN DUN... *HOSPITAL FOOD*!

Perhaps it doesn't have the allure of airplane foodstuffs, but hospital food is interesting in a way that one day you might have to visit your grammy there or maybe you end up there after partying too hard. However, the majority of you won't end up in a hospital, but I'd thought it'd be nice to show you what you're privy to at a standard hospital cafeteria.

In my profession, the lucky ones get free food or some sort of stipend to splurge on food in the hospital cafeteria. This makes my stomach and my wallet happy. What's funny about the hospital cafeteria food is that it is basically the same food that inpatients get, only the latter get to pick from a menu and have their meals delivered to the bedside. My food stipend does not cover that.

Most hospital cafeterias (and I have sampled many) are pretty standard. Think *hot lunch* and *elementary school*, surly cafeteria workers, a bunch of people in white coats, scrubs, and various stages of undress in front of the salad bar.

The basic components of the hospital cafeteria are: the heart attack corner (featuring a range of things from make-your-own pizzas to everything deep fried), a sad salad bar that charges by the pound, a burger-hot dog-fries area, a "hot lunch" area with things like rice pilaf and mashed potatoes along with some sort of salisbury steak or dry turkey and green beans, the dessert bar which can range from an ice cream machine with a table of add-your-own-toppings to a freezer case to pick up your frozen treats, to the individual pie slices and cookies the size of your face.

What I am saving for last is, of course, THE LUNCH SPECIAL. The lunch special is very hit or miss. I have seen everything from gyros to nachos, some sort of Chinese lo mein or chow mein, to buffalo chicken salads, quesadillas, and breakfast foods that can pass for dinner (like huge omelets). The problem with these lunch specials is that there are at tops 2 of those surly cafeteria workers making each special by hand, Chipotle-style, out of bins of the separate ingredients. One can only imagine the congestion caused by this torrid affair.

My diet when I'm at a hospital is quite erratic. With the addition of free food, my meals become something out of a Saturday morning cartoon. I do not normally bring a camera into any hospital premises, and therefore the scope of these photos is quite limited, however, illustrative of what you might see.

Breakfast. Note the key component of a caffeine-containing beverage. The obligatory "healthy" component being the strawberry yogurt that tastes too much like fake sugar. Finally a breakfast plate.

The close-up is at the beginning of the post, and one can clearly see the clumpy eggs which are sometimes mashed up with cheese (I believe these were, as well), making a chunky, tasteless mess, hence copious amounts of salt, pepper, and yes, ketchup. The sausage patties at the side are actually the turkey sausage. The normal sausage tastes the same anywhere you go, a cross between Jimmy Dean and Bob Evans and just taking a bite out of a real live pig. I went with the turkey to see what it was like, and realized there was a reason the bin was still full of the patties in mid-morning...

Sample lunch. Note again, the obligatory caffeinated beverage. The main course is a 6-piece of "Alaskan roll" that is brought in through contracts with local Chinese restaurants.

It is a new trend among hospitals to include the most benign and inoffensive sushi choices to their menus. The taste is very mediocre, but free sushi is free sushi. Sadly, the "California Roll" is no doubt the most popular, because people seriously think that it is *real* sushi. And there is always a lot of wasabi thrown away because people cannot handle the heat.

Moving along, the side dish is a portion of large breaded onion rings. The one thing hospitals can cook is fried. Anything fried is no doubt good. Particularly with two kinds of sauce: honey mustard and BBQ.

Notice the perfectly fried texture of these onion rings. I could wax poetic about these things forever. It's like going to a carnival...a carnival that is prepared for my pending myocardial infarction.

And of course, dessert. Hospitals also never go wrong with dessert, most likely because of their contracts with local bakeries and/or simply getting premade mixes and frozen things from Sam's Club and Costco.

One can never go wrong with a Tollhouse ice cream sandwich and it's almost-500 calories. It almost makes up for the hours of rounding and sleep deprivation that lies ahead.


  • Thomas, so cool to see your post on Hospital Food. I was actually really surprised to see how sophisticated they are with the Alaskan Rolls. Here in Japan, they never serve anything remotely fatty – usually porridge and canned fruits. But you do see droves of people dragging their IV poles out to the courtyard to smoke. It’s pretty horrendous.

    Love the onion rings photo – it reminds me of Ernie’s hands (from Sesame Street).

    yoko on

  • you’re going to LOL @me, but the paid hospital cafs in my area are actually GOOD… and cheap besides. that is one place that my friends and i would hit for a hearty $5 b’fast. the stuff they serve the patients, tho: UGH!

    kayce. on

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