Dinner on the wards- Hospital food.

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Virgil Evetts

I’ve always said that my blind terror of hospital food is what keeps me healthy. All that overcooked cabbage. But to be fair to the much-maligned kitchens for the poorly, it’s been a few years since I’ve spent much time around hospitals. The punctual arrival of my impossibly perfect first-born last week saw me loitering in the wards though numerous dinner services, so I took some time out from my new vocation of full time Baby Adorer to sniff, prod, taste and photograph whatever turned up on the dinner trolley. And found I had to eat my words. Perhaps hospital food has improved, or maybe I’ve just grown up a little, or maybe I was too distracted and tired to form a reliable opinion; but, with the exception of a rather pungent fish and potato carry-on, everything served to my best beloved was actually pretty good, relatively speaking. That is to say that it was  basic food with a distinctly down-country kiwi vibe. The sort of stuff my paternal grandparents churned out really. Nourishing, tasty and not terribly imaginative. I suppose this pretty much covers the home cooking of a great many New Zealanders anyway. So if hospital food is supposed to be easy on your system and vaguely comforting it’s doing pretty well these days.

There were a few peculiarities along the way- such as the chicken pie which lacked pastry and, a pervasive aroma of ill-treated cabbages, even when said brassicas were absent from the plate. But as I say all in all decent, tolerable Nana food.

Night 1- Entrée Olive

I didn’t manage to photograph diner on the first night as I was still all aquiver about the arrival of baby Olive (actually still quivering right now), but  I couldn’t help but notice its ‘aroma’. The dish consisted of aggressively-fishy-smelling steamed fish, served on mashed potatoes with a ‘white sauce’- whatever that may be in the hospital catering lexicon. My best beloved was still drugged up to her eyeballs, and emotionally and physically exhausted, and couldn’t be tempted by its rank odour. A funny choice for the post-op appetite, but I suppose it would have been easily digestible, if not very  palatable.


Night 2- Little lamb

Next night things were much better- a quite passable lamb ragout. It was a bit too tomatoey for my liking, but was otherwise a well executed dish. The lamb was tender, very lean and flavoursome. The accompanying beans, carrots, parsnips and potato were a little overcooked, but otherwise inoffensive.

Night 3 – Through the mincer

A sort of beef-mince stew. Basically just mince, onions, a little stock and seasoning. This would have been well suited to mince on toast, and I rather liked it despite myself. More watery vegetables in attendance, but the cauliflower was at least still white.

Night 4- Better than the buffet

Dinner on the fourth night was by far my favourite. Roast beef with broccoli, kumara and mashed potatoes. Of the later  trio the there is nought much to say. They filled a gap.  But the beef was excellent- tender, flavoursome and lean. The gravy was of that guilty pleasure instant kind. Who knows what was in it, who cares? But it was quite delicious.  This meal was quite a bit better than the carvery offerings from the average wedding buffet. Not that that’s any great pedigree. Horrible affairs, weddings.

 Night 5- Pie Lie


Dinner on our last night (well their last night, I wasn’t allowed to stay over) was the rather peculiar aforementioned sans-pastry chicken pie. Perfectly nice if you thought of it as a creamy stew but deeply disappointing as a pie. I’m largely of the opinion that pies fillings are vehicles for lovely crispy pastry. Not the other way around.

Befores and Afters

The desserts offered each night were for the most part a series of very pleasant surprises. Think old fashioned steamed puddings, custard, and ice cream and in one case a truly outstanding orange flavoured blancmange.  The later is more than little mysterious as blancmange is usually unspeakably horrid.

Lunches and breakfast throughout our stay were of the predictable but adequate kind. Toast and cereal, filled rolls, sandwiches and soups. Unremarkable but it’s hospital food after all and could certainly be a lot worse.

So to those of you destined for a stay in a public hospital anytime soon, fear not (much). The food really isn’t bad. It’s not fine dining, but nor should it be. When we are feeling off colour and vulnerable we want basic, familiar food. What I saw and tasted during our stay in the excellent maternity ward of North Shore Hospital achieved just that. The only real downside to public hospitals (apart from the obligatory illness, incisions etc) is the public.

Finally – thank you all for your kind wishes and comments about our very happy arrival last week. So far Olive is proving to be the best kind of baby. She eats like a horse (on a liquid diet), sleeps well and rarely cries. She smiles endlessly but I’m told this all just wind. Of course it’s early days and might make her presence more assertively felt, but either way we are, and will be, hugely happy!



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7 thoughts on “Dinner on the wards- Hospital food.

  1. when my friend was at City Hospital last year – he would order the baked beans for lunch.

    he assumed it would come with toast…it didn’t it came with bread!

    later he discovered he could use the toaster in the patients kitchen when he was more mobile.

    apparently “toast” can only be had for breakfast – he never did discover why!

  2. I wonder if Olive coloured your vision or that I am just too fussy but my experience with hospital food over the past few years has been truly blah. Greta (14) had 2 weeks there last year and she took one look at her plate and then lived on brought in food from home. We tried to give her meals away to long sitting visitors at other beds but even they declined.
    I can still remember in my post op time of babies eating delicious la cigale chicken and mustard pie with rocket salad and shaved parmesan that Ed brougt in…..
    I admire your ability to see the best in what you ate but wonder if you would have felt the same had you not had a baby to admire….

  3. I’m sure you’re right about weddings. Personally I just sit there thinking “when will this end?” I’m talking about the ceremony/reception btw- not actually being married! To be fair I’ve attended some very nice weddings -ie great food.
    Yes, Olive is delicious isnt she? S’ppose I could be biased…

  4. I love hospital food.

    At least you dont have to cook it yourself.

    Olive is gorgous Virgil, but look where she came from. Your beloved is simply beautiful.
    I hope your loved one is recovering well from her op.

    I along with the mounds of other foddlovers forum people cant wait to see more photos of your precious daughter.

  5. Virgil, the baby looks just wonderfuland so relaxed. I think, you might have dug yourself into a bit of a hole though regarding your comment about weddings being horrid affairs. Remember, lots of women here who love the tears that come with a wedding. Tears of joy and most likely, not tears of relief….