Have you been to a Harvester before?

An Andi Reiss original

An Andi Reiss original


Hospital food, it’s a joke right? A horrible, tepid, over-cooked, bland, tasteless, colourless-less-less disaster. On the plus side, the risk of getting any form of food poisoning from it is minimal, thanks to it containing less than micro amounts of anything constituting food; it’s a comestible fuel, something to get through and forget about like a one night stand. It should be noted that having never had a one night stand, I’m not sure about that, although Lord knows I’ve had many offers; you wouldn’t believe it if I told you! It’s three. And all on the same night. From the same man dressed as a woman. Or maybe the other way around, I’m not sure it was dark. Regardless, it was a three-times repeated offer of casual sex, lasting a period of time equal to one night, although possibly less. It’s just a shame I didn’t have my wallet on me.
So, hospital food is crap. No actually it’s not because it’s free. Gratis. On the house. Nada. And when has anything free been crap? When have you ever said “no thanks, that’s crap” to someone saying “Hey, here’s a rusty angle-poise lamp; it’s missing a spring, it doesn’t work and somebody has drawn a penis on the shade with a Sharpie. But it’s free!” And thanks to somebody some time ago, who didn’t say “no”, I’m now enjoying that lamp as it dangles precariously above my head.
Patients love to complain about hospital food but anyone who’s happy tucking into a Subway Prawn Cheese Bolognaise foot-long on the ‘outside’, has no right to bad-mouth the Turkey and Basil Quiche with gravy in here. Although, if you don’t like turkey, you’re pretty much screwed. It makes an appearance on every menu and much like Gonorrhoea, albeit marginally tastier, it’s here to stay; Turkey Cottage Pie, Turkey Lasagne, Turkey Sausage…but never a whole identifiable bit like a leg which leads me to believe that either a kitchen porter is supplying horribly mauled birds from midnight parking-lot turkey fights or the NHS catering budget can only stretch to a Grade E minced product. Assuming it’s the latter, although that’s not saying the former isn’t feasible, I imagine pre-mincing, the turkeys were horribly unhealthy, scraggly birds, harbouring a range of mutated cross-species viruses and carrying all sorts of bugs, toxins and inexplicable fatty lumps. Do we want to eat these aberrations of the avian world?
Yes! They’re FREE.

Another reason hospital food is worth its weight in amputated body parts, is that it alleviates the incredible boredom of the hospital day, which settles in promptly once the initial excitement of waking to find you haven’t died or worse, crapped in the bed in the night, subsides.
Waiting for the arrival of the menu, so you can choose what you’re having tomorrow, is an exciting delight. But it doesn’t end there as you’ve no doubt forgotten what you ordered yesterday, which is already in the process of being half-heartedly prepared, to arrive as lunch today. And even if you do remember, it’ll look nothing like you expected it to, so you have the fun of trying to work it out – sometimes even tasting it doesn’t give away any clues. I told you it was exciting. Of course, you could look at the accompanying ticked menu, included on the tray to prevent any dispute as to whether you really did choose the Tuna Omelette and a raspberry mousse that tastes like worm medicine.
“I keep telling you Nurse, I haven’t got worms!”
“And I keep telling you that’s because you keep ordering the mousse”.

Eventually, the grumpy man who smells of Lambert and Butler comes in with the menu. He hates me because I never have a pen to fill it out and visibly shudders as I reach for his with my germ-ridden hand, from my disease- ridden bed. At least, that’s pretty much what he’s thinking, although frankly the fact that it was behind his ear in the first place, not to mention determinedly chewed and still a little wet on the end, makes me wonder whether I should even be looking at it let alone holding it. But the excitement of deciding on ‘Brown’ or ‘White’ roll overcomes me and I disregard the dangers of his bacterial Biro and start choosing – Braised turnip Hotpot, tick; not terribly appealing but Turkey and Cream cheese sandwich doesn’t sound right at all and I can only tolerate so many omelettes the consistency of Nana’s slippers. She’s not my Nana, she’s in the room two doors down. She shuffles loudly along the corridor, 4 or 5 times a day, mumbling things about the demise of Woolworths. It’s repetitive but not boring, as there’s always something different attached to the back of her slipper. Yesterday, it was a Turkish delight wrapper and a leaflet about Blood Pressure; the day before, what looked like an entire, gradually unwinding roll of surgical tape was trailing behind.
Next on the menu, ‘Starch Options’. Todays ‘options’ are Rice. More of an option really. Vegetable choices are ‘Mixed, Side Salad or Gravy’. Really? Then for ‘Dessert’, Semolina, Jam Tart, Ice Cream and Drained Tinned Pears. Nothing wrong with any of these puddings, they’re all perfect, so I choose them all. I’m always tempted to tick the ‘Special Diet’ box and receive my entire lunch ‘Soft Moist’ or ‘Pureed’ but I imagine it would just all go into a blender and arrive in a plastic beaker with a straw. When the grumpy man returned, I radically changed my mind and went for the omelette after all. When it arrived, I regretted my decision.

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6 thoughts on “Have you been to a Harvester before?

  1. hrhmags says:

    3 square meals and 10

  2. BJCollins says:

    At least…I’ve been in here for a very, very, very, very…zzzzzz

  3. Mrs B. says:

    Good luck with the omelette. Did you manage to eat it or did it end up stuck to the old girl’s slipper? I’ve heard they do a mean turkey omelette.

    • BJCollins says:

      Thank you, luck sadly was not on my side and two bites in I came across something I couldn’t identify. I left the rest but I won’t be surprised to see it again sometime tomorrow, shuffling along the corridor. I’ll wave to it but I imagine it’ll be too excited to notice, as it embarks on its landmark journey down the hall.

  4. @Chazzyb31 says:

    I’ve never been to Harvester and have only visited hospital as a day patient, where I was given a tuna mayo sandwich and a cup of lentil soup, both of which were acceptable and most welcome, having not eaten at all that day.

    I loved your account. It made me laugh lots – you’re a very funny guy. It’s good that you’re keeping your sense of humour. But if the food is so awful I’d get your family and friends to smuggle you something more to your liking. You need to keep your strength up.

    • BJCollins says:

      Thanks, good advice indeed and I can assure you my family are rallying around the clock to bring me wine gums, Kit-Kats and Lucozade – all excellent for building strength and bringing on diabetes. I can only dream of Lentil soup; that sounds wholesome and delicious, although the reality of being presented with a cup of soup that resembles something I may have previously ‘brought up’, isn’t so appealing. I realise that I am a little contradictory regarding hospital food but the reality is it’s pretty good considering the budget they work too and the number of patients they serve; with the exception of the Omelette, that was an dried-egg abomination.

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