a few hours after harlan was born, while we slumped dazed and confused in our palatial birthing suite, an attendant brought a tray to the bedside — breakfast!
i lifted the lid on the plastic bowl and was rather pleased to discover a heap of rice bubbles. there was also a tub of peaches, and a tub of milk, a grainy roll, a pat of butter and a foil pack of strawberry jam. all in all a low-fibre, high-sugar meal befitting a world class healthcare provider, yes. i pretty much inhaled breakfast — it was all gone in a little over five minutes.
when lunchtime came round, i was excited to read “HONEY CHICKEN” on the sheet tucked beneath my tray. i had visions of golden, glistening, batter-coated chicken lumps. i lifted the lid to find this:
this sinewy looking mass of muscle, deathly pale against its bed of rice. despite its woefully unappetising appearance, the meat was actually moist and tender, and had the faintest taste of honey on its surface. alas, i cannot say the same for the vegetables. they just tasted of good health, in the blandest possible way.
it was around this time that i txted the boy — who had by this stage extricated himself from the miniature couch where he’d been reclining and gotten himself back home to install the recently procured baby capsule in the back of his truck — and begged him to bring me fruit and the packet of ülker chocolate biscuits lurking in the pantry.
that evening, the meal slip read “SWISS STEAK”, which promised a slab of tender meat covered in a rich mushroomy gravy, and fat slices of mushrooms. instead, it turned out to be a slab of meat, yes, held together with a fat vein of gristle, and doused in a bewildering sweet and sour sauce. i ate around the gristle and sauce, and then, having learnt my lesson from lunch, i turned the pat of butter for the dinner roll out onto the rice and vegetables, peppered and salted the whole thing, and rendered it palatable.
dessert was a tub of cold set custard — the highlight of the meal, really — and a red delicious apple, which is my very least favourite kind of apple on account of its complete, ironic undeliciousness.
i was pondering the random selection of meals that i’d been subjected to as i gazed out at my city sunset view, when an attendant came by and placed a sheet of paper on my bedside table. a menu! for the next day’s meals! it all became clear: up until now, someone else (a computer?) had been making the choices for me — here was my chance to see if these hospital meals could be more enjoyable if i got to pick what actually showed up.
so for lunch the next day, i chose irish stew, and for dinner, the hungarian goulash with mashed potatoes, followed up by that compelling custard on both counts. breakfast had already been decided for me, and i was greatly saddened to discover a pair of weetbix in my bowl the next morning, which is my very least favourite kind of cereal on account of its complete undeliciousness.
alas, i was cleared for discharge the day after that, so i will never know if the falafels in tomato sauce were any good. the irish stew was, and the goulash too, which was delivered while kid #1 was visiting, and met with her approval.
my last breakfast, on monday morning, i was back on the rice bubbles. they really do snap, crackle and pop!
and then we were off, me and harlan, back into the big wide world.