Tinged with nutmeg, the slightly nutty flavour of the rice married wonderfully with the sweetened milk. It was a fine, grown-up pudding, ambrosial but very far from the glutinous Ambrosia.The reason for my reacquaintance with the unfairly traduced dessert was that I happened to be spending three weeks in Bromley hospital. Contrary to the impression given by Mr Grossman, the food wasn't too bad. In particular, the Sunday roasts both beef and lamb were better than you'd find in many pubs. As is often remarked of English cuisine, the best meal of the day was breakfast.
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Munching buttery toast and marmalade in bed made it almost (but not quite) worth being in hospital. I emerged from my incarceration with an addiction to porridge that took months to diminish.Not that hospital food consists solely of bog-standard British fare, as I discovered during a previous NHS stay, in Scarborough hospital. Because of a shortage of space, I passed a week in a geriatric ward, and I still recall the bewildered response of my fellow patients when a nurse bellowed the lunchtime choice at them: "Do you want chicken chasseur or lamb haricot?" God knows what they'll make of the Pacific Rim cuisine or Tuscan titbits cooked up by Mr Grossman and his masterchefs.Incidentally, I'm a bit worried by their idea of garlic potatoes. Hospital patients have enough niffs to contend with, without having garlic breathed on them by the occupant of the next-door bed.Admittedly, NHS nosh is not without its failings Vegetables are not a strong point.
A boiled sprout in Bromley hospital was probably the worst thing I've ever put in my mouth. Equally inexcusable were the over-salted packet soups that preceded every meal until I learnt to shout: "No!" Since soup is so easy to make and keep warm, so nutritious and tempting, it is a wonder that hospitals don't make it by the gallon.I also missed salads in hospital. I spent much of my time dreaming of bresaola and rocket with good olive oil and shaved Parmesan. I doubt if hospital cuisine post-Grossman will be able to provide that. During my stint in Scarborough, my wife augmented the rather stodgy fare by smuggling in a local lobster (not the easiest thing to scoff while supine) In Bromley, I had to make do with M&S sushi.
Tucking into their shepherd's pie, my neighbours expressed little envy of my raw-fish diet.Possibly the same will apply to Loyd's exotica. The fact is that most people, particularly when they're off colour, prefer food they're used to In my experience, hospitals are already on the right lines Their output should simply be of better quality. Instead of garlic mash and beansprouts, the £40m would be better spent on fresh vegetables and home-made soup. If I were a hard-pressed hospital catering manager, I might feel a bit put out at being bossed about by a TV celeb who's made a fortune on the side by plonking his name on bottles of pasta sauce Still, he's right about spaghetti hoops.. In the early 1970s there was a famous science programme for kids, presented by someone called Fred. With a panel of experts, Fred would beguile viewers with the miracles of science.
At the end of a brief exposition about a seemingly magical phenomenon, he would assume the air of an American Indian, raise his hand and ask in a deep, sepulchral voice: "How?"His panellists would mime and chorus the question in unison. The programme was called How?, and before you could leap into a rocket and fly to the Moon, Fred was ready with some answers. He could always explain "How". The "How?" question is at the centre of the debate over public services, already the central issue of the election campaign. How can they be improved? So far, symbolic gestures have kept Fred's question in the background. Tony Blair has symbolised his good intentions by announcing the formal opening of the campaign at a school. Alan Milburn and David Blunkett, in charge of Health and Education, were assigned the task of speaking to journalists after the cabinet meeting on bank holiday Monday.