Sodexo’s Salt & Pepper cafeteria at GMC…standing room only with just one corner table for first come, first serve seating! Wide variety of decent and junk snacks, only a few will carry their used trash to the respective dry and wet bin, we Indians are like that only.

By Tara Narayan

BEING in and out of hospitals through most of my life in Goa in the last 23 years I have seen how hospital cafeteria are no longer the old limited story of bottled drinks, pastries and fryum snacks, mostly packaged deadweight industrial food or some local business venture not particularly conscious of such things as how food makes all the difference to a patient’s recovery!
Hospital food has come a long, long way if you take today’s Goa Medical College & Hospital’s Sodexo Yoo cafeterias in old and new multispecialty hospitals and Quess cafeteria at the Manipal hospital. In fact, I’ve become fond of both these cafeteria and oftentimes prefer the Quess cafeteria where early morning 8am one may find such traditional wholesome snacks such as idli, medhuvada, upma, poha and very agreeably done with a good chutney and lots of veggies swirling in the sambar. Being all-Indian I’m not surprised Quess is doing good business and is quite conscious of offering patients wholesome food; of course alongside in a cabinet you will find the junk confectionary, the atrocious puff patties, tempting samosa and other fryums which god alone know are fried in which refined oil.
If you’re a discerning patient or relative you will ignore the processed eats in favour of the fresh food menu offered daily which is more value for money as well as health-wise. A traditional poha or pressed rice savoury dish will be all good things seasoned with turmeric, grated ginger, curry leaves…tempered in mustard seeds, garnished with fresh green coriander. Peanuts in it for protein value. A wedge of cut lemon alongside so that you squeeze it fresh atop, adding a vitamin C zing to your poha dish. In India we get several versions of poha or rice flake dishes, discover them all. Red rice flakes are more nutritious.
WHILE on the subject of hospital cafeterias while the old GMC’s Yoo cafeteria offers only standing space to those catching up with a bite; the new GMC Super Specialities Hospital block offers ample and very refreshingly designed cafeteria, tempting one to go there more often if there’s time on hand. Funny or not funny, you know what? These days I find when I want to catch a bite I’d rather go to a hospital cafeteria for breakfast, lunch, tea-time or dinner.
The Manipal’s Quesa atrium-styled cafeteria’s breakfast treats include very agreeable idli-sambar, medhuvada, upma, poha and so on; good sandwiches too although of white sliced bread. One evening I found the tea-time light cutlets and onion pakora very good and found myself relishing them although both are fryums! In the evening they also offer freshly made tea with fresh ginger in it instead of the machine ginger or cardamom tea. Take your own dibba if you want to pack something for a patient. They also do fresh fruit juice and that’s very refreshing, most hospital cafeterias don’t offer this, when you’re feeling low there’s nothing like an orange, pomegranate or green juice of veggies.

New GMC superspeciality hospital’s Sodexo Yoo cafeteria… spacious and relaxing, decent fresh meals and snacks and there is a usual junk food, no fruit juice or cut fruit bar! This is a good place to relax and fresh meals are worth it. Lovely picture windows overlook the hills far away, this is doctors’ corner!

Coconut water is a perennial much in demand refresher and considered the best natural drink around to boost energy and stabilize dehydration in body beautiful. Some attendants or relatives do bring in fresh tender coconut water for fruit juice for a patient, seeing how patients are generally never offered water to drink and are a dehydrated lot. They do enjoy a tender coconut water or a more dynamic fruit or veggie juice for nutritional inputs too to help faster healing of any kind. Cut fruit is also desirable although for this the cafeteria has to invest in good refrigeration and cooling ware. I would also like to see at hospital cafeterias such things as the digestive aid Yacult and tubs of fruit or plain yogurt of which we have such a variety nowadays in the market.

At the Manipal hospital’s Quess cafeteria…can sit and eat, a lot of choices in very decent snacks and meal deals. Fruit juice bar offers fresh tender coconut water too, but the idea of offering freshly cut pineapple, papaya or other fruit is yet to arrive. Altogether hospital cafeterias are brushing up their notions of healthy food as illustrated in all the posters put up!

DOWN south Goa I think the Victor hospital in Margao offers a decent cafeteria. Somebody should really visit all the hospital cafeteria and do a survey on them, how health-conscious they are or how indifferent and stuffed only with mod con junk foods and aerated sugar-doped bottled and tetra-packed drinks which contribute majorly to our failing health scenarios all around! Not joking. Obesity is a huge issue in our times and paves the way to further and faster degeneration of body beautiful! At least hospital authorities should take a call on their cafeterias, even if their staff roll-coll includes a qualified dietician for patients only.
The sooner we learn to drink and eat right and also live right, the sooner we will stop getting into health issues acute or chronic or degenerative…to eventually find ourselves with health issues on a hospital ward bed public or private! It would be great to see our hospitals half-empty, with our medical fraternity freer to take stock of them own health issues too; this so true in the case of public hospitals where OPDs with their resident and consultant doctors take care of such a large number of patients with so many different kinds of health issues bogging them down.

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