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Food with a Good Bedside Manner

December 17, 2010

Whenever you hear about “hospital food,” there is never a good connotation.  It conjures up images of grey slices of meat, watery mashed potatoes with a gelatinous gravy-like material, mushy vegetables and some sort of chocolate flavored substance that they call “pudding.”  And when you are referring to the food served to hospital patients, this assessment is correct.  But what a lot of people may not know is that this ugly food is not what’s going on in the hospital cafeteria, generally speaking. 

I have had the pleasure – yes, pleasure – of sampling the food at two local hospital cafeterias recently, and they were both quite impressive.  Albany Medical Center and Ellis Health Center (in Schenectady) both offer a wide selection of freshly made food at a very reasonable cost.  They each have staff making sandwiches to order, grilling up burgers and chicken, baking freshly made pizza, and stocking quality veggies at the salad bars.  At Albany Medical Center, I had a pizza with onions, pepperoncinis and red peppers; it was delicious.  On another day I had their special sandwich of the week, a turkey breast carved right in front of me, placed on a roll with dill mayo, and accompanied by homemade potato chips; simply fabulous.  2 slices of pizza totaled $4.50, and the sandwich with chips was $4.99.  You could easily expect to pay twice that amount, but for some reason it seems that hospitals care more about their customers than, say, concession stands at sports arenas.  They also had someone making a lavash wrap with hummus and fresh veggies, and – get this – a sushi bar with chefs rolling up sushi favorites to order. 

This is not to say that these eateries are flawless.  A lovely looking stromboli, stuffed with meats and cheese, had been under the heat lamp too long and had dried out.  At Ellis, the ham was more like processed deli meat than the fresh kind.  But a few issues aside, these cafeterias are quite impressive.  It’s just too bad the good stuff doesn’t filter up to the patients’ trays. 

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