Terry Kirby: Ward's grey goo was of little help to my recovery

A gooey, lumpy, grey mess on a cold plate, it was surrounded by watery carrots and what could have been mashed potato or perhaps cauliflower.

In my befuddled post-operative state, I could not remember which box I ticked when the order slips had come around hours earlier, and I'd had a bit of a snooze since.

Tentatively, I forked some grey stuff into my mouth. Chicken? Possibly. Pork? Maybe. It could have been a truffle risotto garnished with caviar because there was no taste on which to base judgement. I tried a mouthful of carrots and then the potato/cauliflower thingie. Still a taste-free zone.

I pushed the plate away and returned to sleep, preferring dreams about real food to the reality that is thrown at you in hospital.

As a foodie, my two spells in hospital earlier this year tested to the limit my belief that life is too short to ever eat badly. My expectations were low but what actually passes for hospital food defies belief: overcooked roast meats and stews brought from faraway kitchens, sweating and congealing in heated containers.

Fifties-style salads of limp lettuce and stodgy, nursery puddings of a type which, I had wrongly assumed, had been outlawed in the Britain of wall-to-wall cookery television. And all served at noon and 5.30pm, whether you want it then or not.

As for breakfast... most cereals are of dubious health value anyway but why no muesli? Why only white bread? Hasn't anyone told the NHS about the connection between food and health?

I managed to preserve my sanity – and aid my recovery – with meals brought in by family and friends, the hospitals' own food courts and, eventually, local cafés. But it didn't stop me feeling sorry for those on the ward lacking my mobility, forced to endure the horrors of unhealthy, unappetising meals. And in a place that is supposed to make you better.

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