Monday, May 07, 2007

Loretta Nall Eats Her Words...and the Fat too!

Y'all will remember last week that I complained loudly about the food I was served, while my daughter was in the hospital. That complaint brought a very unhappy response from the head of the dietary department at Russell Medical Center here in Alexander City. I can understand that. If someone had said my smoked sausage looked like an escapee from the operating room at the sex change clinic, then it would have pissed me off too!

I felt really bad about what I had said and I posted a public apology and asked for a do-over. The chef very graciously agreed and that do-over took place today around noon.

I arrived at Russell Medical Center a little apprehensive. I had never met the chef and generally I don't like to meet people who are pissed off at me when I am meeting them for the first time. I am also very loathe to ever say the words "I'm sorry". Y'all save this post, because you may never see it again. But, since it was my fault, and I have a really guilty conscience, I sucked it up and went in to see what culinary delights awaited my pallet.

When I got onto the elevator some cute little girl was on there with painted toenails and bare feet. I snapped this picture because, only in the deep country do you ever see people running around without their shoes in public. I even do it when I can get away with it, which is much harder now that I am an adult. I hate shoes.

Last week, during my exchanges with the head chef, he told me that many people come to the hospital cafeteria from outside to eat and, from the looks of things today, that was the unvarnished truth. The first thing I saw when I pulled into the parking lot were swarms of people coming out with carry out trays and cups. As you can see from the picture below the dining room was packed. I had to sit in the private staff dining room or what appeared to be the private staff dining room.

I am not sure what this dessert was. I saw it as I was going through the line and thought it was very pretty and took a picture. I started to get some but then saw the massive lunch that had been prepared for me and knew I would never be able to eat it.

When I walked into the cafeteria I was going to ask for the chef to let him know I was there, but I didn't have to, as he came walking out of the kitchen just then. I smiled and said hello and that I was looking forward to the do-over. He handed me a comp ticket and asked me how I like my prime rib cooked. "Well done." He then proceeded behind the counter with the servers and prepared my plate himself. I was impressed. When he handed me the feast (pictured below) I was speechless.

I had wanted him to sit down and have lunch with me, but the place was packed and he was up to his ears in hungry people so, I found a place to sit and dug in.

I failed to get a knife when I went through the line and I was afraid someone would snatch my meat if I left to go back and get one. I wasn't about to let that happen. In fact, I would have fought someone over that piece of meat. I also would have eaten it with my bare hands had I forgotten a fork and spoon. So, armed only with a fork and a spoon I set to it like a starvin' dog. I can't help but wonder what my fellow diners thought of that display!

The meat was so tender that I literally cut it up with my spoon. Not one speck of salt or pepper did I add, because it was seasoned to perfection. There was also a yummy, fluffy baked potato with butter and sour cream on the side and their iced tea was as good as any that I make. I tried to eat slowly and savor every bite...but that was hard to do. I can't remember the last time I had Prime Rib. I remember looking longingly at one in the supermarket a few months back and almost passing out when I saw the near $70 pricetag. Now I understand why it costs so much. That is good meat!

As you can see from the picture below I cleaned my plate. Why, I even ate the fat! And yes....those are tongue tracks on the plate. I didn't leave a smidgen of meat or savory juice. And all that was left of that tater was the skin, which I would have also eaten but simply couldn't hold it because I knew I had all of those ugly words I said last week to eat when I got back home .

In closing, I offer another very sincere apology to the dietary staff at Russell Medical Center and, in particular, to the head chef. I should never have said what I said for a number of reasons.

1. I used to be a dietary manager at a nursing home here in Tallapoosa Co. and it is a hard job. Most places require a degree in dietary health before they will hire you and I did not and do not have one. I didn't stay at that job long, because I felt I wasn't qualified to do it and didn't want to inadvertently give a diabetic patient something loaded with sugar...which was bound to happen. I also had a real problem working in a nursing home setting....just couldn't handle it. Too sad. I should have had more respect for the work that goes on in an institutional kitchen having been there and done that myself.

2. The day that I wrote that post I was a grouchy bitch who had spent the night in a very uncomfortable fold-out chair and couldn't find any coffee. Although the sausage really didn't look all that appetizing, it wasn't as bad as I made it out to be. Sometimes we writers elaborate and embellish here and there to make our stuff more enjoyable to our readers. I was also using the post to vent my frustration at simply being in the hospital. I can't stand the places. That isn't saying hospital's are bad...but, they're just not home I guess. I often use humor in the stuff I write, but, I sometimes forget that humor can come at the expense of others feelings, pride and dignity. Being a proud and dignified person who possesses feelings myself, I should have known better than that.

3. There is a plaque I have seen hanging in many places with a suggestion that reads, "Like our service? Tell your friends. Don't like our service? Tell us." I should have followed that protocol and taken my complaint to the kitchen and not posted it on my blog for all the world to see. I never gave the chef the chance to make good on it before I started griping about it and I, of all people, know better than that.

I really respect this chef at the hospital and his decision to let me know how he felt. Not being one to stay quiet when I am pissed off I would also have contacted the person responsible for the remarks to let them know about it. I know myself when I see myself in other people, if you know what I mean. Many people bristle and some find it hard to form friendships with those who are too much like them. I, on the other hand, applaud, cheer and encourage people to stand up and say, "Now looka here...I ain't gonna put up with that," even when such remarks and criticisms are directed at me...and deservingly so. It is NEVER a bad thing to speak your mind and to let others know when you feel they have wronged or slighted you. As you can clearly see from this incedent good things can often come from speaking your mind. This chef got a chance to prove he is indeed a REAL CHEF and I got some free prime rib. Hell, that's a sweet deal if you ask me.

Now, for my readers who occasionally travel 280 through Alexander City....the next time you are here around lunch time drop by the cafeteria at Russell Medical Center and taste for yourselves what this 'diamond in the ruff chef' can really do. Wolfgang Puck better watch his back! I bet he doesn't sell prime rib and baked potatoes for $5.49 with a drink. Mine was free today...but I left feeling like I owed money. The food was that good.

My compliments to the chef!


Christie said...

You're a good girl!!!

Bryan said...

Loretta, you should not have felt guilty. It was unfair to have a do-over. The fact is if you are a cafeteria patron you get nice food, but if you are a patient you get absolute shit. Every hospital is like that. (Maybe not the nice food in the cafeteria, but better than the patients get). Your description of thing in the picture that escaped from an operation room was very accurate. You should ask him to serve that crap for lunch and see if people are still swarming to the Hospital for it.

If that guy took offense to what you said, he should serve the patients better food. Don't placate that asshole!


Loretta Nall said...

No...I really felt guilty because, in all fairness, I should have gone directly to the kitchen and complained and given them a chance to make it right. I also feel I was overly harsh in my review from lack of sleep and coffee. I don't think even prime rib would have looked good that morning.

And the guy really isn't an asshole at all, but someone who wants me and my readers to know that good fare is available in his kitchen.

Who knows...maybe it was just a bad morning for sausage??

Bryan said...

So what about the food the patients get, which is what you originally wrote about? I fail to see why your original point about the food the patients recieve is invalid.

Also, all hospitals have shitty food for the patients, not just that place. Maybe not EVERY hospital, but every one I have ever been admitted to or visited qualifies this statement. They charge $1000 a day to be there and then feed you crap!

It's like flying, you pay $400 to $1000 to get to your destination, get seated behind some fat guy who needs all 2 inches of space they gave you in front of your seat just to fit, they charge you to rent a pair of shitty, mono channel headphones to watch a tiny TV screen 5 rows ahead of you, and then when they finally get around to serving you the meal, you start longing for an elementary school grilled cheese because you believe it to be more enjoyable than the plain stale shit they have served you.

It is unfair on the plane and it is unfair in the hospital. Some of those people are their because they are dying and the crappy ER escapee sausage could be the last fucking meal they have in this lifetime. Fuck that chef and his false sense of pride. If he was really good, why isn't he working in a 5 star restaurant in Manhatten or some posh place like that?

I believe to truly be fair (as if you haven 't had enough of that place) would be to check out the lunch of the patients on a randomly selected day, then ask the chef WTF is up with that, cuz you know it will look like crap. Letting him expect you and go out of his way to make up for it so you will withdraw your opinion is hardly a fair assessment of their culinary services.

Of course, you have your life to live, so I will lay off with my bitchy opinion after this. It's not you that makes me mad, it's the hospital chef for pretending he deserves jack shit when he is serving pieces of dog shit for someone's last meal. If they serve wine and caviar to the dying, I have yet to hear of it, so I have to assume the worst.


Anonymous said...

I agree with bryan's first post..
The crap that they give patients in hospitals (I was a patient recently for my foot)is terrible.I swear,the soup is a bowl of lukewarm water with food coloring!Well,go Loretta!
I just hope that you don't have to go back to a hospital anytime soon..for any reason!