In my life, I've worked in three hospitals and been treated in five ... and the most vivid recollection I have of any of them is bacon.
Why in the world would a medical -- or healthcare -- center, as they like to be known, allow that kind of food to be served? And take a certain obstinate pride in it?
Well, glad you asked. I have a theory.
Hospitals are grim, grim, grim. No matter how much pastel paint they use, or colorfully abstract art they post, or soft lighting they employ, the fact remains that people are there because they're sick or damaged, or they're visiting someone who's sick or damaged, or they actually work with the sick and damaged.
The hours are awful -- shiftwork at its worst. Usually 7-3, 3-11, 11-7 ... the kinds of hours that, no matter which shift you've pulled, you're tired and gray/green-skinned at the end.
With the exception of pink-cheeked, hyper-thin, well-established cardiologists, nobody looks good. They look bad, they feel not-so-hot and they want some comfort, dammit.
Enter the bacon.
A hospital cafeteria -- at least the ones I was familiar with -- specializes in comfort food. Today, there is at least a nod toward healthful eating, with the obligatory salad bar (note the sneeze shield).
But for the most part, heavy carb-laden "American" food is what's served, on demand. Deep-fried, breaded, caramelized saturated fat heaven. Heavy on the beef and pork.
And breakfast is the best. I mean worst. Where the worlds of two shifts collide, the smell of coffee and the fat of bacon seep into your pores whether you're in the cafeteria or taking the elevator up with carts of food for the units ... where the smell is bound to worsen the nausea of the already ill.
But if you're working in that life, used to it, there's nothing that signals normalcy more than that smell. It's the sense of normalcy imparted by this food that's so important. It's linkage to the world where you're not seeing horrible things every time you turn around. It masks the authentically awful hospital smells.
It reminds you what you're immersed in isn't normal.