Been trying to sew...totally useless because my hands are so shaky so I read the two sides to the meat eating/vegetarian 'discussion' instead...in fact I read so much about amino acids and obese people suffering from malnutrition through poor diets and so on that it took me right back to my first days at the hospital.
There was none of this, going to university and getting a nursing degree before you actually saw a patient in those days...it was on with the uniform and straight onto a ward. We worked one week on wards and the next week in lectures...then in the second year the lectures week was partly taken up with visits to various institutions' and other hospitals...
By the third year lectures were once a month for a couple of days...
Whenever Larry decided on nutrition as the subject for the day there'd be a collective groan from us...partly because we were totally at the mercy of the kitchens as to the food the patients were given and to what we were offered in the staff canteen...it was unremittingly foul.
Remember I trained back in the late Sixties early Seventies and many of the people I looked after had been in institutions most of their adult lives...it was policy when those patients were younger to extract all their teeth...money saved on dentistry of course and many could be unreliable in their mood swings and would bite if they were angry or unhappy. So they had what was known as a 'soft diet'. It looked and smelled revolting...usually pale grey boiled mince mixed with instant mashed potatoes. Sometimes there might be ice-cream for pudding but it was usually rice or semolina. Day in day out...never any glimpse of a vegetable...which could have easily been mashed...and never any fruit.
So when Larry began by saying variety is important when choosing a diet there'd be hoots of derision and Pierre and my ex-husband would drum their heels on the floor...occasionally Larry would manage to take charge fairly quickly but Pierre...black as ebony and tall with it...would liven the proceedings up by going into a crouch and making monkey noises while scratching his armpits...' Get up ye daft French bastard' Larry would bawl...and he would and we'd go back to how vitamins are absorbed or some such topic until it was lunchtime...
Patients who were lucky enough to have escaped having all their teeth pulled had a different diet to the toothless ones...they had mince and instant potato with processed peas...those awful bright green things that have been half squashed in the making. Sometimes the kitchen went to the other extreme entirely and cooked lamb chops on the bone...with instant potato and processed peas. No-one ever knew how to tackle their chop...they only had spoons to eat with so cutting the meat from a heavily over cooked and chewy chop was beyond them...it was beyond the nurses actually so we'd tell them they could pick it up and eat it with their fingers...but there were always a few people who tried to eat the bone as well and we'd be rushing about snatching chewed bones away before any damage was done...
I once went to a meeting straight after lunch quite forgetting I had several chop bones in my apron pocket...
Teatime was scrambled eggs on bread...watery scrambled eggs which soaked straight through the bread...about once a week there'd be one sardine on bread otherwise it was always scrambled eggs.
Every now and then, to show how progressive we were, we'd have a dance and a buffet...this took much in the planning. The tea-urns had to be within easy reach for us and way out of the reach and sight of the patients...ditto the milk jugs. There was never a choice of having sugar with tea so that was one less thing to worry about...all the food had to be prepared and then left...in our easy reach and well out of the way of the patients...there were many you see, who would have simply eaten their way through everything...
The kitchen played no part in the food preparation nor did they give us anything...I once asked could we have a few loaves of bread please and was met with a stony silence before the response...'Never heard the like in all the years I've been working here...dances for the likes of them...and a buffet if you don't mind'...so I guessed the answer was no...
We made simple crustless sandwiches...jam mostly 'cos that was a treat...and soft sponge cakes cut into thin wedges. And the blokes blew balloons up and Sylvia, who was dating one of the Searchers, persuaded them to come and sing.
It was only ever the most well-behaved patients who could attend these do's...the ladies were always outnumbered because the men, in general, were the least trouble...we danced with the chaps who didn't have a partner and watched the jam sandwiches with eagle eyes and doled them out fairly at intervals and waited until the tea was tepid 'cos of scalding and sang along with the group and heaved a sigh of relief as nurses from the wards turned up to collect their charges...
If it sounds Dickensian it is because it was...it was a hospital which had barely dragged itself into the nineteenth century...never mind the twentieth. The food was appalling because no-one in authority ever challenged the kitchen staff...and I suppose in fairness they probably weren't qualified to cater for large numbers and had little or no knowledge or understanding of dietary needs...
Hospital food is still pretty awful.