At home, at my in-law’s house, on Facebook and even on Twitter, the recurring topic is how a lot of people are down with colds and cough with flu-like symptoms. In my family, I was the first to catch it a week or so before Christmas. I was down for two days and missed I don’t know how many parties. I thought I was just tired and my immunity was down. But Sam and Alex in their condo in the city caught the bug too at around the same time. Many of their friends got it too. We were just starting to recover when Speedy got hit by the virus the day before we were scheduled to host a post New Year party at home. I cancelled the party. Predictably or not, the virus seems to be making a second round and we’re all sniffing and coughing again. But, this time, it was just Speedy who got plastered on the bed with fever. I could move around and write and cook. I fed him with what I thought would make him feel better.
A hot bowl of congee. Or you can call it arroz caldo, lugaw or pospas, if you like. They all refer to the same thing — soupy boiled rice. Cooked with lots of ginger and delicious chicken broth (homemade, of course), and served with chicken meat and all the trimmings. What you see in the photo was what I gave him. Not “sick” food at all.
Which brings me to the part where I wonder why, in hospitals, instead of tempting the sick to eat well to get nourishment, they serve you food that I can only describe as food guaranteed to make you even more sick. I can understand that with people who have digestion issues, fat-free and low-salt dishes are prescribed. But for the rest…?? If the taste buds are numbed by illness, isn’t it more logical to try and tickle the taste buds and tempt the patient with aromatic and flavorful food? I have very, very bad memories of hospital food.
After graduating from law school, I got very sick. Never mind the ugly details — suffice to say that I was getting blood transfusions every few months and it took some two years and five specialists to figure out what was wrong with me. Note that during all that time, there was nothing wrong with my digestion nor my appetite, and I was supposed to be on a high protein and high iron diet. Yet, during each hospital confinement, I would get food for the invalid — the kind meant for old people with terrible heart and hypertension problems. Plain boiled rice with table salt on the side. Plain boiled vegetables with specks of brown that could be passed off as meat.
My goodness, I think I lost five pounds after each confinement. I remember that I was confined a few times at Capitol Medical Center which was (still is) very near a lot of restaurants. My mother would go and buy food from those restaurants (maybe she couldn’t stomach the hospital food either) so we could eat decent food. My brother who was still a law student at the time would pass by the hospital everyday on his way home and eat whatever he found on the hospital tray. Which was always plentiful because it was untouched. He preferred that to going home, finding no food there and having to prepare a meal for himself.
Perhaps it was because of all those bad memories that when I became a mother, whenever my girls (and Speedy) get sick, I make sure that they eat well. In fact, I make it a point to ask what they’d like to eat. Because a huge part of fast recovery is feeling good and comfortable. So comfort food that makes them feel good — whether it be lugaw or chicken noodle soup or pizza — makes sense. I just wish that people who run hospitals would understand that.