Stuck in a French hospital

hospital-IV.jpg

Sometime around the end of May, I got bitten in the small of my back by an insect. I didn’t think anything of it of course, since I do get bitten all the time. Insects seem to like my blood or something. However, this bite was different. Instead of going away after a while, it got infected and the area around it start to swell painfully. (In retrospect, I may have scratched it after touching a mildly infected pimple I had near my nose. Now I’m deathly afraid to scratch anything on my body.) I tried to treat it myself, with cold compresses, then hot compresses. I put ointment on it and disinfected it. But it didn’t get better. It eventually become so painful that I had to resort to painkillers, which worked halfway, but I was still in a lot of pain.

But the swelling spread and became worse, and I was running a low fever, so 3 weeks ago I finally gave up and had The Guy take me to see a doctor. The doctor took one look at it, tried to lance it a bit (without any painkiller - it hurt so much I screamed) and then told me that I had to go to hospital emergency in Carpentras (a town that’s the regional center of this area, about a 20 minute drive from our village) right away. After several hours of waiting around and a couple of tests, the surgeon who examined me told me that I’d have to stay overnight, and have surgery the next day.

And so began my totally unplanned stay in a French hospital. I’ve had three surgeries, to remove quite a lot of infected tissue. They told me that they had to cut away about a 20 cm (7 inch) square and 2 cm (1 inch) deep bit of tissue, since the infection had burrowed quite deep. Also, they suspect I may have the early symptoms of diabetes, since my blood sugar level is elevated (though it may be at least partly due to the infection; the numbers have come down quite a bit in the last few days). At the moment, I’m tethered to a negative pressure dressing system; basically there’s a vacuum hose attached to my back, with the other end attached to the wall. The hose is sucking the wound gently closed, helping it to heal up, while it also sucks away excess body fluids. Even when I go home, I’ll have to wear a similar, more compact system there for 6 to 8 weeks, during which time I won’t be able to walk around or do much exercise. At least my IV was taken out about a week ago, so I’m not tethered two ways. In any case, my first summer of living in France is turning out to be a total loss.

Language problems

For the first few days, I was in too much pain to care about much. But once the second surgery was done (the third was to remove some dead tissue under the wound) I was feeling a lot better physically. Mentally it was another issue. Being hospitalized is never a fun experience, but being in a hospital in a country where your grasp of the language is shaky is really not a good thing. When it comes to French, I can understand more than I can speak (and thanks to 3 1/2 years of French literature in college, my reading comprehension is a lot better than my hearing comprehension). I did quickly learn the most important words and phrases: j’ai le douleur (i have pain), j’ai mal (I don’t feel good), etc. But when you are still translating stuff in your head and not feeling totally alert at the same time, it’s really hard to communicate. It’s damned frustrating.

One particular thing that tripped me up is what The Guy (who happens to speak 4 languages - those smart Swiss) calls False Friends - words that when directly translated mean one thing, but in use mean something else entirely. For instance, prior to my second surgery I had to sponge-bath myself with an antiseptic. Afterwards, as I sat in my paper-like surgical gown with my butt hanging out, feeling very vulnerable, a nurse’s aide came in and demanded, “avez-vous fait la toilette?” Translating in my head, I thought she was asking “have you gone to the bathroom?” Since I hadn’t been able to poo for a few days (having a major pain in your back sort of prevents you from putting in the effort, shall we say) I replied non. Now, this nurse’s aide seems to have some kind of problem - with me, her job, the world I don’t know - but she’s so bitchy that I have taken to calling her Madame Méchante (Madame Nasty), or alternatively the Blonde Bitch. So she glared at me and started practically yelling at me “ooh la la, vous n’avez pas deja vous lavée??? (You haven’t washed yourself yet???)” followed by some rapid fire crap-in-French that I didn’t get. I quickly caught on that she meant the washing thing and corrected her, but I still cringe when I think of that moment.

To be fair, with the exception of Madame Méchante, just about all the other nurses, nurses’ aides, ambulance workers and other staff I have come into contact with on a regular basis are really nice and very professional. The doctors are so busy that I have barely seen them really, but when they do come around they are also very nice. However, almost none of them speak more than a little English. Something to keep in mind should you get sick in France, especially outside of Paris.

I think that my French comprehension may be considered on the intermediate-advanced level in foreign-language-learner terms, though certainly not fluent. (I found that I could have conversations with other patients quite comfortably, which was really nice.) The thing is, it takes a few ticks of time for me to process and comprehend what people are saying to me. And my comprehension and frustration level depends on how people communicate with me. For instance, every weekday morning I go to a clinic in Avignon (the biggest town in this area of Provence) where I spend an hour or so in a Jules Verne submarine-like chamber for hyperbaric oxygen therapy or HBOT (see Wikipedia entry about HBOT). The doctor in charge there does not speak English, but she always talks to me very clearly, waiting for me to process the information and react, and that is wonderful. The nurse that has been on duty for most of the days I’ve been here has a similar communication style (and she even tries some English) and that’s great too. I wish everyone was like that, but of course they are not. The most annoying way that people try to communicate with you is when they raise their voices, as if SHOUTING makes it easier to understand them. If you’ve ever been to a foreign country, or encountered foreign-language speakers, and you’ve done this, stop it. It’s intimidating and unnerving and altogether a awful way to talk to someone.

I’ve actually seen this in another context. My father was hospitalized earlier this year - he actually has advanced diabetes (one reason why they think I may have diabetes, because of my family history) and had to have his left leg amputated at the knee. (He’s now back home and coping well, by the way.) My father understands English perfectly - he grew up around native English speakers since his parents were both in the Salvation Army, he was an English major in college, he’s spent more than half his adult life in the U.S. and England and was a company executive for decades, and he’s been in an elder in his church for 20 odd years. When I’m talking to him he even has a tendency to switch from Japanese to English because at this point it’s somewhat easier for him. Still, he does have an accent, and in his weakened state it was taking him a few ticks and more to respond to people. I witnessed the nurses, nurses’ aides, ambulance workers and so on talk to him LOUDLY, as if he were deaf, and also talk down to him as if he were a child. I don’t know if this is the natural inclination of hospital workers, but to me it’s a horrible, demeaning way to talk to adult patients. Please, if you happen to be reading this and you work with sick people in any capacity, do remember that to treat them with respect and dignity. Just because they are sick, and may have an accent, does not mean they are dumb or have reverted to childhood. An above all, don’t YELL.

I’ve never been hospitalized for such a long time before, but ironically when I was in Switzerland I never experienced these frustrations in a medical context. For one thing most Swiss people speak at least some English - some very well in fact. And for another, no one really assumes that a foreigner understands or speaks schwiizerdütch or Swiss-German, which is a German dialect that sounds totally different from the standard Hochdeutsch that you might learn in school. So there was really no talking down or yelling. Our GP where I used to live was fairly elderly and spoke no English, but he always communicated clearly and slowly so that I would get it, or waited for The Guy to translate. But many French people, in hospital or elsewhere, just seem to assume that you should be able to understand French if you’re there (and especially if you had the temerity to buy a home there). I guess French conversation classes are definitely in my future, if I’m going to stay here.

Oh, the hospital food

One thing that people seem to be very interested in is how the food is in a French hospital. Well, as I said I don’t have much first hand experience with hospital food in general, but I have observed both my father and my mother (who has spent a total of 80 plus days in hospital, from late last year to June, for surgery on her severe case of ulcerative colitis) and the food they ate. My mother’s food in Japan didn’t look that bad to me, though she said it was blah; it was certainly quite varied, and even had touches of color - greens and reds and yellows. (See also: Plastic food models used for nutrition education in a Japanese hospital.) My father’s food in New York looked absolutely awful, and when I asked him about it he just said “I think of it as medicine”. Of course the food they were getting was quite different - after most of her large intestines were removed my mom was able to eat just about anything, while my father was getting a low-sugar diabetic menu - but still, it’s hard to think of anything more depressing than food that’s all in shades of grey and brown.

The hospital food I’ve been getting here has been mixed. Mostly it’s quite blah, and the colors do tend towards greyish-green an beige. But there are some bright spots - for instance we get a small wedge of real cheese (mass-produced stuff, but still) at least once a day, and fresh fruit too. The bread rolls are crusty and not bad, far better than the floppy bread slices my father was getting. (Incidentally I am also on a low-sugar meal plan, and I was surprised that it’s white bread, and that I also get white rice, pasta, potatoes, even pastry. I had always assumed that diabetics couldn’t eat refined carbs, but I guess I was wrong. If it turns out that I do indeed have diabetes, I’m going to have to do a lot of research.) Low points are the tasteless stewed or canned fruit and fruit salad that comes instead of fresh fruit for some meals. We are right in the middle of one of the major fruit growing regions of France - the town even has a variety of strawberry that bears its name, Fraises de Carpentras, and Cavaillon, famous for its melons, is just a hop away - so I don’t see why the yucky poached stuff is necessary. But I guess I’m just being difficult.

Here are some of the meals I’ve been getting, shot surreptitiously with my iPhone. (But if they don’t like me posting these, they can throw me out of the hospital! Whee!) After all, this is still a food blog.

This is the breakfast I have every day: a bowl (a cafe au lait bowl, with no handles) of tea, with two packets of biscottes - melba toast essentially - and a pat of butter. I can get coffee instead of the tea but I’ve never been a morning-coffee person. I think people with no sugar restrictions can also get hot chocolate. One time, Madame M. put some jam and sugar packets on my tray, but I’m sure that was a mistake. (I ate the jam anyway.)

hospitalfood-breakfast.jpg

Lunch and dinner are always more or less the same: a protein dish, a vegetable, some kind of carbohydrate, plus fruit of some kind, cheese or yogurt or fromage frais. There’s usually a bread roll or more of those melba toast things too.

This was the second meal I ever ate here I believe, and it was a bit of a shocker. The pool of greyish-white stuff that looks like cracked plaster is actually brandade de morue - poached salt cod in mashed potatoes. I prefer my version, or even better a version made by Chef Erick Vedel when I took a cooking lesson with him last year - the salt cod was mashed into brebis, a fresh sheep’s cheese, and stuffed into puff pastry. But this one was just extremely starchy and salty. The grey-green broccoli didn’t help much.

hospitalfood1-brandade.jpg

This was not too bad…roast pork in rather watery jus, mashed potatoes or pommes purée, and grey-green spinach. I guess it is the fate of vegetables to turn grey-green in a hospital kitchen. It didn’t taste too bad though.

hospitalfood2-porkspinach.jpg

This thing was gratinéed celery - it well, made me giggle. I have a dirty mind I know. It tasted ok, though I had to eat it with just one eye open.

hospitalfood3-celery.jpg

Now this is very French - an andouille sausage is the main. French andouille, unlike the Cajun kind, is not spicy, and is filled with pig’s intestines and stomach bits. I’m not too fond of it normally since it’s a bit barnyardy, but it was a welcome surprise in this case. The ratatouille, which appears often, is not too bad - well we are in Provence after all - and the carrot salad was refreshing. Note the crusty roll and the wedge of Cantal cheese - and fresh apricots!

hospitalfood5-andouille.jpg

This is colorless but actually tasted quite okay. It’s a beef stew with pasta and…I’m not sure what that beige vegetable was, I think it was white beans. I suppose that vegetables cooked in big quantities and kept hot on a steam tray does lose its color.

hospitalfood6-stew.jpg

And finally, when I saw this meal I actually teared up in joy. Spaghetti bolognese! Not as good as mine, but…spaghetti bolognese!

hospitalfood7-spaghetti.jpg

I know I am way more obsessed with food and how it tastes and looks than the average person, and some might (and do) say that I an GODDAMNED SPOILED, but what can I do, it’s my nature. I suppose the food is tolerable. I do look forward to meals - I get really hungry anyway. Still, I dream about the food - the still healthy and within-guidelines food - that I could be making for myself at home - properly cooked vegetables, fresh salads, whole grains to keep me regular. And I get the oddest cravings, especially after dinner. Things like butter-poached almonds, fresh macadamia nuts, spare ribs, a pastrami sandwich from a good New York deli, steamed pork buns from Eiraku in Yokohama, roast chicken with crispy skin, still rare-on-the-inside magret de canard, and plates of glistening sashimi haunt my waking dreams. I think that after this experience, I’m never going to take good food for granted again, and I will certainly think twice before wasting a meal on some junk from a fast food place. Curiously though I don’t have any sugar cravings, but then I have never had a huge sweet tooth.

In any case, I am still here, typing away at my laptop set up on my little table-on-wheels. Madame M and a couple of other staff don’t like that I have my laptop here, but the doctor said it was fine, so screw them. I need my laptop and the ability to write, and get online, to maintain my sanity. At this point we are waiting for my Swiss insurance to sort out the payments or whatever for the home care. There’s a chance I may have to move back to Switzerland temporarily - we’ll see. In any case, I just know that I can’t wait to get out of here.

Last but not least, I am so, so grateful for everyone who is out there in Twitterland who have given me words of encouragement when I’ve lost it and whined like crazy there, as well as all the great comments I’ve gotten on this site and Just Bento, as well as flickr. My family and ‘real life’ friends live in other countries, most in other time zones even, and without my online friends I don’t know how I could have gotten by so far. I know lots of people scoff at Twitter and such, but from my perspective human kindness and support in whatever way it gets to one is gold. To you all, I say, I give you a big, cautious (because of that hole in my back) hug and kiss and say thank ou, merci beaucoup, danke vielmals, arigato. I’ll still need your support until I escape!

Update

Well it’s Monday, 2 days after I posted the above. This morning they suddenly told me that 1. I could leave the hospital and that 2. I don’t have to have the VAC thingie attached anymore! Woah, that was a pleasant shock! So anyway, I am now home! Thank you EVERYONE for all of your wonderful support! I may post another update, or just go back to FOOD… ^_^

Incidentally, the last dinner I had at the hospital last night was this beauty:

hospitalfood-final.jpg

It was so completely beige that it was funny. The white beans were okay, and the rice was what it is, but the thing in the foreground was definitely problematic. I had an impromptu guessing game on Twitter to see if anyone could figure out what it was; NolwennP did (could have helped that she is French ^_^) finally. It’s a fish gratin with carrots and onions or leeks or something in it, by the way. The sauce had curdled somewhat, which didn’t help things.

No more hospital food - whee!

Life is good again.

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Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Oh dear, get better soon! Hope all will go well after all.

I am German of Vietnamese descent. Sometimes in Germany, I notice ppl speaking more clearly and slowly, only because I have an Asian look. But when I was in Japan, ppl assumed I was Japanese of course, but even when they realized I wasn't, spoke very normally to me. Sometimes too normally even, because I was the worst at listening comprehension at the beginning. French ppl are especially famous for their snobbish attitude concerning their language. They indeed assume everybody is able to speak French, but if they don't, French don't usually yield to it. And then, they're not very good in English either. The first is what ppl say, the latter is my own experience anyway. Hm, but ppl can be immensely ignorant, but some probably just don't know. They haven't been studying other languages and been abroad and tried to communicate with ppl in a language they're not really good at..

But get better soon! It's fun to learn a language, so better to experience a few drawbacks than not to do it at all I think.

Get better k :)

V: | 24 July, 2010 - 13:11

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Did the doctors tell you what bit you? It sounds like a brown recluse bite and if it happened at your new home you should get the place checked since those spiders are really bad news. But anyways, I hope you keep getting better and keep up the good spirits! That's always half the battle when stuck in the hospital.

anon. | 25 July, 2010 - 05:52

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Those spiders are only native to some parts of the US and are not found anywhere else in the world.

Stefanie | 21 August, 2010 - 16:29

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Hi,
I can understand what you're living. When I wad hospialized near Paris, I also met Madame Mechante!
There is one of them in any French hospital I think.
By the way, I'm french and I quite agree with the first comment. French people are proud of their language and don't make any effort to communicate with non french spokers, especially outside of Paris.
And what you say about people yelling, it's so true! I totally agree with you.
I hope you'll get better really soon!

Ryukei | 24 July, 2010 - 13:28

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

WOW! What a horrible thing to have happened to you! It is very interesting to hear your experience in the hospital. The food looks a little like what you would get in the UK, always presented so badly. I hope that you can escape soon and I really hope that you get better soon Maki!!

alice w | 24 July, 2010 - 13:45

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

What a bad experience, especially for a new inhabitant in France! I think Roseline Bachelot, the health french miniter, has to read your post! I'm not proud of my country. When my father was in hospital I brough him some fresh fruits and home made and cakes and pastries, but it's prohibited! Sorry for my bad "french" english. Bon rétablissement.

Esther | 24 July, 2010 - 13:56

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Hope you are getting better and escape soon.

Good thing you said what was in the food pictures. I would never in a million years have guessed the broccoli.

I think Madame Méchante has relatives around the world working in hospitals. I've met a couple of them.

Kuentos | 24 July, 2010 - 14:18

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

How awful!! I was quite concerned when I noticed the initial announcement that you were hospitalized, followed by several weeks of silence... it's good to know that your convalescence is progressing.

I had a similar experience while in Japan, actually. After several weeks of increasing listlessness, including a moment where I had to abruptly leave work because I felt inexplicably overwhelmed, I finally relented to my parents' pleas to go to the doctor. At the clinic, they did a blood test, made me wait until almost every other patient had left for lunch, then announced that my bilirubin was dangerously elevated and that I had to be admitted. Fortunately, after a few days of testing, it was clear that my hepatitis was already going into remission, but still - scary experience, given that absolutely no one spoke English. Fortunately, my Japanese was good enough to communicate comfortably - in fact, on my second day there, en route to getting yet another test done, a nurse intercepted me and asked me to translate for another foreign patient... and, as it turned out, her Japanese was just fine, but she needed to see a gynecologist and was embarrassed about it, which was misinterpreted as a language barrier. Poor girl.

The food, by the way, wasn't bad. They warned me that it would be "jimi," but there were plenty of veggies and a good deal of meat. The part that kind of threw me was that they fed me liver at least once. Which, in a way, makes sense, but... it still threw me.

bethama | 24 July, 2010 - 14:29

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Wow! All that about an insect bite! That probably should be a warning to people like me who get stung a lot, too (we probably have tasty blood?), and can't resist the urge to scratch ...

If you have diabetes that might have contributed to the infection a bit as well since it affects wound healing negatively (though in early stages it shouldn't be that bad). In any case it's good that it was discovered in an early stage!
As for the refined/whole carbs, as far as I know (being a diabetic myself and having it in the family, too), refined carbs are "allowed" but since they make the blood sugar go up more quickly - and subsequently drop faster - whole carbs are recommended. However, I often have found, especially lately, that lots of doctors/health-care professionals are rather ignorant when it comes to diabetes which is strange considering that it's becoming what people call a "Volkskrankheit" here in Germany. Once you get out of the hospital I strongly recommend looking for a diabetes specialist!

And oh, I so hear you on the language barrier! I have lived in France for ten months two years ago, and while the language barrier was bad enough in everyday life it got really bad when I got sick - I suffered from pain in my side and no one could find out what it was. I wasn't hospitalized but I was at the doctor a lot and had to take my colleague to translate which, seeing as we were not that close friends, was not ideal (not to mention that I couldn't take her every time). In the end I grit my teeth and suffered through the last few weeks before I could get back to Germany and go to the doctor there.

Wishing you a speedy recovery!

Mareike | 24 July, 2010 - 14:52

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I came here to say this about diabetes. :) There are many schools of thought about diet for diabetics. Also, from my understanding, it's not just what you eat, but when you eat it. (Although most of my experience comes from Type I diabetics.) But yeah, get thee to a good nutritionist if diabetes does turn out to be the problem!

Dina | 25 July, 2010 - 01:42

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Thanks for sharing maki, tears come into my eyes just thinking about what you must be going thru. I have never been hospitalized but having been a foreigner almost all my life I can understand what you must be experiencing with the language issue and being somewhere new, but you know what, the best is that all those that care and love you are there for you and even those who just know you thru this blog are wishing you the best. Not to mention that when some time passes, you will be well, and you will have learned so much from all this. Gambatte and sending you lots of encouragement!!!

pili | 24 July, 2010 - 15:04

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Oh my gosh, that's awful! I'm glad you're on the road to recovery, though it certainly doesn't sound like it's been an easy road. Get well soon - your online friends are thinking of you!

Jessica | 24 July, 2010 - 15:49

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I hope that you can "escape" soon and fully recover quickly. The photos/commentary of the hospital food are very interesting.

anon. | 24 July, 2010 - 18:28

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Wow, all this ordeal you are going through because of an insect bite! Who would of thought that? I am happy to hear that you are progressing and hope you get out soon!

It is funny how strange people react to other who are different from us, by way of language or whatever. I work in a school clinic in Florida. We have so many of our students that are foreign and speak another language. The kids can pick it up fast, but it's hard to communicate with the parents sometimes. We do have some staff that can speak Spanish, but the Russian and Polish we usually have to have the kids translate for us! It's amazing how some of the Spanish speaking expect us to translate rather than them getting their own translator. I guess that's what they expect from the US because they always get what they need. Okay that another issue here sorry. Just trying to distract you from your hospital stay :D

I was only in the hospital once when I had my Cesarean section when my daughter was born. I didn't enjoy the food much except breakfast I had the cheese blintzes and fruit each morning. They were actually good.

I'll be sending you good thoughts and healing wishes your way and here's a soft (((hug))).

Lyndsey | 24 July, 2010 - 19:45

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Oh my, I didn't realize you are still in the hospital. It sounds like a very scary experience overall, so I'm glad you seem to be recovering. The language problems sound terrible; being in the hospital is bad enough when you can understand everything. The food actually looks much better than the hospital food I've had though.

Kalyn | 24 July, 2010 - 21:13

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Wow, that is terrible.

My lady and I are long time readers of your blog and we hope you get better soon. Don't let those hospital workers get you down, you'll be able to leave soon and they'll somehow have to keep working there.

Jay | 24 July, 2010 - 21:34

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Ciao Maki, spero tu possa ritornare a casa prestissimo.
ho seguito sempre il blog per avere tue notizie, non ho mai commentato per il mio scarsissimo inglese ma adesso voglio salutarti e augurarti pronta guarigione nella mia lingua.
Lilli

lilli | 24 July, 2010 - 22:24

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

lilli wrote:

Ciao Maki, spero tu possa ritornare a casa prestissimo.
ho seguito sempre il blog per avere tue notizie, non ho mai commentato per il mio scarsissimo inglese ma adesso voglio salutarti e augurarti pronta guarigione nella mia lingua.
Lilli

Translation - Ciao Maki, I hope you get home soon.
I always follow your blog to get your posts but have never commented because of my poor English however Inow want to say hello and wish you a speedy recovery. Lilli.

Same here. xxx

Linda M | 25 July, 2010 - 16:16
lilli | 28 July, 2010 - 20:32

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I promise we (nurses) don't all yell at our patients or treat them like they are children. Lots of us don't speak loudly unless the patient asks us to speak louder! (:

Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

caitriona | 24 July, 2010 - 23:01

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I'm so glad you posted about your experiences. I think everyone thinks that during their hospital stay that they are the only who has the nurse from hell, or that their food has been simmering on a stove since last month or maybe last year.

I've been in and out of the hospital having various things cut off, and I agree with you 100%. I will never take good food for granted again.

Also I found it too funny that this is the first time your food blog has made me feel queasy.

Judy | 24 July, 2010 - 23:31

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Hello
I'm a French reader and since you seem to have some pb w/ the language, i thought i could help.
i have pain = j'ai mal, j'ai une douleur
i don't feel good = je ne me sens pas bien.

the white bean are haricots beurre, just like green beans but yellow.

if i can do anything else, don't hesitate. though i live in Metz ( other side of france), i'll be happy to help.

Anne

Anne | 25 July, 2010 - 01:03

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I found your site on a google search looking for a way to not waste the wet bonito flakes after making dashi... I was thinking of saving the wet bonito and brewing it into a tea to put on my plants. Have you ever heard of this?

I love your writing and learned a lot in just a few minutes. After writing you this email comment, I am going shopping in Little Tokyo so I can make cold soba noodles for my husband and me tonight. He is returning from a business trip in San Diego, CA.

When I saw the post of your hospital experience, I had to read it. What a journey! I will chant for your speedy recovery! I am a Buddhist foodie and an American living in Los Angeles! We believe in expressing appreciation and repaying debts of gratitude, so this is the best way to repay you, I think! I enjoy your writing so much! Please get well soon and keep up the writing! In cooking school they warned us that the French eat their vegetables cooked quite soft... I can see that from your pictures. Ouch! I know you will be home soon feasting and enjoying a nice, crisp green salad.

I'll come back to your blog soon to check on you!
Very fond regards! Mary Pat

marypat | 25 July, 2010 - 01:08

used bonito flakes

You can reuse bonito flakes 1-2 times to get more dashi out of them. The 2nd use dashi is called 'niban dashi' (2nd dashi, literally) and is used for things like stewed vegetables. Ichiban dashi (1st dashi) was reserved for things like soup in the old frugal days. You can put used bonito flakes in the freezer until you are ready to use them again. Another way to use them is to dry them out slowly in a dry frying pan over low heat, then use it in furikake and things. There are some furikake recipes over on Just Bento. You can also cook the bonito flakes (as well as the used konbu seaweed) in a mixture of soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar until everything is dark and soft - this is called tsukudani, and is eaten with rice, used as an onigiri filling, and so on. Hope that helps!

maki | 25 July, 2010 - 07:41

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

During a recent hospital stay, unable to bear the food, I found that well-wishers could be bribed into sneaking in some fruit and soft drinks. Thanks for the update. Best wishes for your continued speedy recovery.

anon. | 25 July, 2010 - 01:42

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I was so sorry when I read that you were hospitalized. My thoughts are with you and wishing you continued recovery. Because you are a food person IF you have diabetes I bet you'll make and adapt some good recipes. Take care. Wishing you well!

Lori | 25 July, 2010 - 06:22
Kakeibo Please | 25 July, 2010 - 06:28

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Hello Maki!
I am kind of new to your blog, so please be patient, (no pun intended) with me. I thought you lived in Switzerland.
So, I am guessing that you now live in France, and that is the reason you are in a French hospital?
Anyway, so you are being hospitalized because of an insect bite that got infected, and they think you may be diabetic, which complicated/worsened the infection?

Do you think that maybe it was maybe a bee sting, and you had an allergic reaction to it, in combination with it getting infected, and possibly the diabetes?

Please know that you are in my prayers. I will pray for your comfort, that your hospital stay will soon be over, and that you will heal quickly.
God bless you!

Kakeibo Please | 25 July, 2010 - 06:26

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I moved to France at the end of May in fact. So this is not my ideal first summer here for sure!

maki | 25 July, 2010 - 19:26

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I was very sorry to learn of your terrible illness. It made me remember that a couple of weeks ago, I too got a bite on my arm which swelled, itched, and hurt and ultimately turned an ugly rred. I just checked it and there is no sign of the injury. My husband is an entomologist and thought i must have been bitten by a spider. I don't know anything about French spiders, but that may have been what bit you.
The food in hospitals must be universally bad. I was hospitalized for 10 days late in my pregnancy because the baby wasn't gaining enough weight. To rectify the situation I had to consume 2700 hospital food calories a day. I felt like one of those geese who end up as fois GRAS

anon. | 25 July, 2010 - 06:38

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Thank you for all your kind comments and well wishes! They really help, you know!

I've been trying to be good with the food thing...a nice person sent me a package from Japan with all kinds of goodies in it, and I reluctantly had TheGuy take it back home ;_; I do have a cache of sugar-free candies though (don't tell anyone!)...actually at the HBOT thing in Avignon, they give us sugar-free candies to help relieve the pressure in the ears, so I figure they must be ok! There's a positive side anyway, because despite my almost total lack of activity I think I've managed to drop a little weight. Like being at a health spa! Well, not really. ^_^;

maki | 25 July, 2010 - 07:35

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

To protect my sanity I used to imagine my hospital stays were long, long, long haul flights. That way the food was somehow 'excused' as standard (and occasionally better than standard) economy meals and I could feel grateful for the First Class bed.

Oh, Maki, that is such rotten luck to get so much infection from one insect bite. That's a good lesson for me - not to be complacent about such things assuming that only tropical bugs can wreak so much havoc.

I understand about folks talking down to others and talking loudly. It's a phenomenon I've witnessed all too often by visiting Brits. Some time ago I used to volunteer at a hospital near the Spanish coast and interpret for English speaking tourists and expats so that they could communicate with the Spanish Doctors. Occasionally, I'd see the flipside of your predicament, some of the English patients would talk at the Doctors or Surgeons as if they were uncooperative children, it was rather surreal.

Loretta | 25 July, 2010 - 10:29

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I had sort of a similar experience years ago, when I was a teenager, though my stay in the hospital wasn't nearly as long. I had only a basic grasp of the french language, and I had gotten emergency surgery on my knee. It was pretty scary at first, because I was taken to some sort of "military hospital"--but it ended up okay. My bad french did get in the way though, because in order to go to the bathroom I had to have the nurse stuff one of those plastic toilet seats under me on the bed, and she always put it under my BUTT, which is not ideal when you want to pee... so I ended up wetting the bed right when my relatives were waiting outside to visit me.

I hope you get back on your feet and cooking soon! I couldn't believe that you had to have 3 surgeries just from a bug bite ! :o

And although my french is much, much better nowadays, I still get treated like a tourist...not as often, but enough to get me annoyed once in awhile. Good luck! Thank you for the post :)

Rica | 25 July, 2010 - 12:14

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Ah yes, the bed pan. The first night after my 1st surgery, the nurse put a bed pan under my butt, but I just couldn't manage to pee at all. I wanted to, but nothing was coming out. I think it was partly because I was very weak, and partly because of a psychological block or something. I used to wet my bed regularly it seems when I was very little, so my mom tells me - she even had to pack a pair of extra panties in my bag when I went to kindergarten, since I would wet the futon quite often during naptime. I stopped being a bedwetter before I was out of kindergarten, but I think that I have such a stop somewhere in my head against peeing in bed that I just can't do it. Even though I'm a middle-aged woman now. Anyway, because of my inability to pee into the bedpan, they put a catheter in, which I had to wear for a week...now, that was not fun.

maki | 26 July, 2010 - 18:04
Ulli | 25 July, 2010 - 12:52

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Maki I'm so sad to read these things. I'm so sorry for you, your mum and dad too!!! Being in a hospital is such a sad and boring thing...
I hope you get well really really soon so you'll be able to eat your great dishes!!

Jiza | 25 July, 2010 - 13:15

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Hope you get through this soon! Take care!

Alice A. | 25 July, 2010 - 13:31

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

actually, "j'ai mal" means i feel pain.

"j'ai le douleur" doesn't mean anything. you should say "je ressens de la douleur" or "j'éprouve de la douleur" which is much more complicated to say, and "j'ai mal" means exactly the same and it's simple...

i don't feel good = je ne me sens pas bien
aller aux toilettes = go to the bathroom
faire sa toilette = se laver = wash yourself

if you need anything feel free to ask me, i'm french
(i left my twitter account as homepage)
i often help foreign people on twitter when they need french vocabulary

hope you'll get better soon
pauline

ilikecalpico | 25 July, 2010 - 15:26

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Smuggled avocados were my favorite ill-gotten hospital food treasures.

phoxx47 | 25 July, 2010 - 16:10

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Hi Maki!

I love your blog! I'm so sorry to hear about this incident! I hope you feel better soon!

I just wanted to correct what you quoted from Mme Méchante:

"avez-vous faire la toilette?" should be "Avez-vous fait la toilette?"

and

"ooh la la, vous n’avez pas deja vous lavé???" should be "Ooh la la, vous ne vous êtes pas déjà lavée???"

Feel better,

Milleca

Milleca S. | 25 July, 2010 - 16:45

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Serves me right for checking my spelling/grammar with a Swiss-German ^_^

maki | 25 July, 2010 - 19:14

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Hi Maki,

When I saw that first post about you having emergency surgery, I checked back every day to see how you were doing. I'm so glad to hear you're on your way to recovery!Thank goodness you are allowed to have your laptop...this is one of my favorite blogs, and I really look forward to your posts =)

I've never been a hospital patient in another country, but I do experience the same language barrier problems at work. I am a dental hygienist and see many patients that do not speak fluent English. Also, some of them are very elderly or ill. I always speak slowly and calmly, and unless they ask me to speak louder, I use the same tone and volume for everyone. Even though they don't say it, I think they really appreciate that I'm trying my hardest to communicate with them and treating them with respect.

Unfortunately, the dentist I work for will come in at the end of the appointment for the exam and undo all the work I've done to make them feel comfortable. He yells in this aweful baby talk/tone and treats them as if they are in grade school! It's so embarresing for the patient (and for me!), and I'm still trying to find a way to bring it up to him =)

Well, I hope you can get out of the hospital soon. Thanks for the food posts, and I wish you a speedy recovery!

Sophie | 25 July, 2010 - 17:22

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I hope you feel better soon!
About the bland hospital food: at least when you get out of the hospital normal food will taste even better!
Get better!

An aspiring playwright | 25 July, 2010 - 17:32

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I hope you continue to feel better, heal rapidly and are soon able to escape home to better food and better rest! *hug*

ruby | 25 July, 2010 - 19:39

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Oh dear what a painful ordeal! thank you so much for sharing - I hug you (carefully, of course, but with all my heart) and send you healing sunshine and sea breaze from my corner on the Mediterranean coast.
Do you know Dr Seuss' "I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew"? I think it is just the book for you now, to melt your troubles away with some really good poetry (-:. I can buy and send you a copy if you send me your mailing address.

in the meantime hear's a famous quote from the book for you: "I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!
-- Dr. Seuss"

Go get those troubles, girl!

E from the Mediterranean | 25 July, 2010 - 21:08

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

So glad to hear that you're on the way to recovery, Maki - get well (and out of there) soon!

Kevin | 26 July, 2010 - 02:24

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Thanks so much for the updates on how you are doing. I have always been curious whether hospital food in other countries that were known for their food would be better. I guess you've shown that hospital food is universally not that great!

Hang in there!

Tiny Urban Kitchen | 26 July, 2010 - 06:43

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I'm so glad you are recovering and feel well enough to take photos of your meals with your cell phone and post them! The attitudes of hospital workers seem to across cultural lines, there's always a nasty and always an angel. As for frowning on your laptop, you'd think they'd be happy you had something to do, not ringing for the nurse all day. As for the food...what is up with hospital food? It's as if they feed you the worst there is in order to convince you to get well and move along!

JB | 26 July, 2010 - 15:25

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I am not sure I have ever commented on your blog - I have read both this one and Just Bento for years and love love love them, but have always been a bit shy about commenting. I actually am half Swiss/half Hungarian, but grew up in Switzerland, so I love that you put in bits of Swiss life over time in your blog, especially as I don't get back there that often (I live in the States now). I hope you get to go home soon. I am so sorry about what happened to you.

Valerie @ City|Life|Eats | 26 July, 2010 - 18:08

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I wish with all my heart you'll get good soon. I always love your site and your writing, but this experience of yours made me really connect to another level. I am the *lucky* one who masters four languages, and my man is the one who doesn't. You won't believe, or actually you probably do, how many doctors won't wait for me to translate to him, or give the time for the news to sink in, or for him to formulate his own questions. Being sick always makes you feel vulnerable, but this total loss of control is awful. Also I find that the cultural differences really explode in those circumstances and you find yourself not trusting at all the people who are curing you. It happened to us in the UK and it was actually the only cultural problem we had there, but it was quite serious, as it is horrible not to trust your own doctor at all!

HHowever I'm sure they are taking excellent care of you and the negative sides appear to have been quite limited in the misfortune. We'll be waiting for more good news to come on your side. Take care and keep posting!

caffettiera | 26 July, 2010 - 21:18

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Maki,

I'm so glad to hear you're on the mend and that vous avez échappé à Madame Méchante!

Chaleureusement,

Donsie

Donsie | 26 July, 2010 - 23:20

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

It sounds like it's certainly been an odd adventure. =/ It kinda reminds me of how I somehow picked up a rare disease related to measles/chicken pox the summer I turned 13 (my birthday is in August...), and had to spend the entire summer basically quarantined. Still, at least I got to stay at our home, not in a hospital. =/ I wish that hospital food wasn't so poorly done. It's not as if you're at your best when you're in a hospital, so it seems unfair that you get substandard nutrion.

I hope that you get back into your lovely routine of bentos and recipes soon, and don't take this as a "sign" that moving to France was a bad idea! D= My own experience in France was that I was told, quite rudely by a shop owner whose accented English was difficult to understand, to "stop speaking French" because I was "butchering the language." =/ But, I love the language anyway. =D Plus, jerks exist all over the world. So! Stick with it~! =D

GET WELL MAKI~! \(^o^)/

Athena | 27 July, 2010 - 00:11

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Wow Maki - thanks so much for posting this update. I'm sorry to hear about the sudden health emergency but I'm glad you seem to be well on the road to recovery! Congrats on busting out of the hospital! Loved the hospital food pics & commentary.

I hope this isn't too personal a question but I was wondering if the doctor wants you to follow up on the diabetes thing? I'm "pre-diabetic" myself and working on losing weight and eating a more balanced, healthy diet to reduce the chance that I'll get full blown diabetes. Your two sites have been a huge help in that regard! Kudos and kudos again!

Moxiequz | 27 July, 2010 - 01:28

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Hi Maki,

I don't know if I have ever commented on your blogs before even though I have been following you for a while (maybe once a while back.

I am glad to hear you are healing up nicely and doing better! I notice in France, and the USA, people tend to be less patient with non-native speakers compared to other countries I have visited and I was born and raised in the states. It's xenophobia and it sucks.

My family has genetic diabetes on both sides; My father was diagnosed 5 or 6 years ago, so I've learned a lot about what he can and can't eat since I like to cook for him. White bread, pasta, rice, and noodles definitely raise the blood sugar quite a bit; He follows a low glycemic index diet. When he was hospitalized a couple of year ago, the "diabetic" menu they were giving him was way too high in sugars/carbohydrates as well so hospitals don't always get it right.

Rosanna | 27 July, 2010 - 02:30

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

[quote=Rosanna]Hi Maki,
...
I am glad to hear you are healing up nicely and doing better! I notice in France, and the USA, people tend to be less patient with non-native speakers compared to other countries I have visited and I was born and raised in the states. It's xenophobia and it sucks.
...
quote]

The language issue:
a few posters have expressed a similar sentiment to the above and which may be worth highlighting, as it seems to have gotten lost in the many responses.

i would like to add my observation that the US (and all the 'anglo-saxon' countries, eg UK, australia, new zealand, parts of canada)are probably as uni-lingual, if not more so, than the French. I could be wrong but my few visits to Japan are that it is just as uni-lingual, except among the younger college educated.

And yes, in these mostly uni-lingual countries there is not much tolerance for anyone who cannot speak the local language to be easily understood. And yes, it sucks, call it xenophobia or whatever.

Long ago, when i was younger :-)), well, in my student days, i would perversely go around London and speak french only, or go around paris and speak english only, and the reactions and service/civility/being spoken to loudly or spoken down, etc, are about the same. You dont really need to speak good french (in london) or good english (in paris) to try this experiment. But try it, it 'builds moral fibre' or whatever, for when you find yourself in a difficult situation in a country where you have little or insufficient knowledge of the local language.

jsager | 10 August, 2010 - 23:55

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Longtime reader here, commenting for the first time. I'm so very sorry that you've had to endure such pain (and bad food)! Sending you lots of healing vibes your way and hoping that you recover fully and completely very soon. We love you! xoxo

mochimuffin | 27 July, 2010 - 03:24

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Just adding my wishes for a speedy recovery...what a terrible ordeal. Welcome to your new home in France, huh ;)Sending hugs and hopes for many delicious meals to come...and a bug-free home, as well!!

Alisuchi | 27 July, 2010 - 03:28

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I am so glad to hear you are better & out of the hospital. Did they say if you do have Diabetes or not? (Have my fingers crossed for you that it's "Not") That food does seem particularly bad. Last time I was in the hospital was the last time we were in Germany (not this time) & the food was lovely. But the language problem - I can understand. This is the 3rd time we have been stationed in Germany & 1 - each time we are in a different part & 2 - never thought we'd get to come back. My German is not the greatest, but I do find it much harder to communicate here in Bayern than in either Hessen or Sauerland. Hoping for the best, Get well soon & enjoy the non-hospital food!

Heather F | 27 July, 2010 - 08:58

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I don't think I've commented on your blog before (perhaps once or twice, but I'm honestly not sure), but I felt the need to reply to this post.

Having spent a fair part of the year I studied in Japan trying to figure out what why I kept fainting at the local hospital, I feel like I understand a part of your experience. The confusion of dealing with the medical system of a country whose language you aren't yet fluent in, the people talking to you like you're stupid or a child because you can't speak or understand perfectly... I'm glad that you get to go home now, because that's just never fun.

I'm honestly something of a terrible cook, and your blog has inspired me in past months to keep trying, learning, and growing healthier and more self-sufficient. So I'm sending all my best wishes for your health and your life in France! I hope things work out well for you.

Ket | 27 July, 2010 - 16:06

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I'm glad to hear that you're no longer in the hospital but oh my goodness, all the things you went through! :( Take care and I hope you get well soon!

kasey | 27 July, 2010 - 23:19

Diabetes or not?

To answer several people who asked if i have diabetes or not, I *think* that if I were in the U.S. they might call it pre-diabetes; I have blood sugar levels on the high end of the normal range at the moment. I still have a not-quite-totally healed wound, and my body temperature is a bit higher than normal, which probably indicates that it may still be fighting infection. My other sort of adult-onset disease type numbers like blood pressure, cholesterol and whatnot are quite normal (my pulse is surprisingly low they say, whatever that means). Now I am overweight, which as anyone knows is not good. (Although my diabetic (Type II, not juvenile diabetes) father is quite skinny...so overweight does not mean diabetes and vice versa.) Also, I have to admit that since moving into the house with no kitchen my eating habits have bordered on really bad for a couple of months. Heck, cooking on a hotplate is not easy after all. We are actively working on fixing that, even before the new kitchen is installed. In any case, as I said I do have a family history of diabetes via my father, so they were taking precautions while i was in hospital, with low doses of insulin - no other medications though. I'm supposed to go see a regular doctor to get my prescription for the blood sugar testing thing (the finger pricker thing) and to see if I need to take insulin at home. Beyond that though the diabetes doctor at the hospital didn't seem overly concerned - she said lose some weight and exercise more and my blood sugar levels should come down to the healthy range. In any case, I will definitely be exploring the world of diabetic-friendly food in the upcoming months, and chronicling some of what I find here I think!

maki | 27 July, 2010 - 23:24

Re: Diabetes or not?

maki wrote:

To answer several people who asked if i have diabetes or not, I *think* that if I were in the U.S. they might call it pre-diabetes; I have blood sugar levels on the high end of the normal range at the moment...the diabetes doctor at the hospital didn't seem overly concerned - she said lose some weight and exercise more and my blood sugar levels should come down to the healthy range. In any case, I will definitely be exploring the world of diabetic-friendly food in the upcoming months, and chronicling some of what I find here I think!

Hi Maki,
Found your site while searching for things to do with a gift of yellow plums, maybe something like an umeboshi, I thought. Your generous sharing of the recipe and family history got me reading, partly because I am sansei (3rd generation Canadian of Japanese ancestry). Like you, my blood sugar started misbehaving in mid-life. Frankly, I was appalled at the meals served to you in hospital. I guess France is like the USA and Canada in pushing the carb-centred meal, regardless of the effect on blood sugar. I control my blood sugar by restricting my carbs. The side effects include losing weight and lowering my blood cholesterol levels. Changing my diet meant I had to face my carb addiction (rice, pasta, great bread, in fact all grain, fruit, legumes, and starchy vegetables, you know the list), but it's not boring. Rich in fat, proteins and plant food such as Chinese greens, salads, broccoli, and green beans, there's lots to play with. Being Japanese complicates the picture – our Body Mass Index (weight to height ratio) needs to be lower than that of caucasians to achieve the same health benefits, and living outside Japan seems to increase our risk. You'll find my story, research notes and recipes on http://foodarazzi.com. Even if you're not diabetic now, my non-professional advice is that especially with your family history, addressing an elevated blood glucose level now will keep you healthy for longer.
Best regards, cassandra

cassandra | 7 August, 2010 - 21:04

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Glad to hear that you're home now, look after yourself and get well soon!

keiko | 28 July, 2010 - 00:13

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Glad to hear you are recovering and has been let out of hospital. What an experience it was for you! Hope you recover fully soon. HBOT is a great way to help diabetic or borderline diabetic people to recover from surgery and wounds. I hope it has helped your wound heal better and faster. Hope you recover completely soon.

Su Su | 28 July, 2010 - 06:44

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Hello and i hope you are getting better everyday.
I just wanted comment being foreigner in France and being in hospital. I was all so in hospital all most 6 weeks, in Paris and near Paris.I don speak at all french but i do understand some amount, and that yelling was driving me nuts in hospital.
And being in hospital in Paris dont mean there is someone who can speak english or even less my native language.
I had during my stay in hospitals some nutrition classes cos i had surgery on my stomac wich alternates quite much what i can eat. They where quite suprising, white bread is considered basic of diet here, all so for diabetic, they are more worried of eating too much veggies or fruits, not even once where mentioned that whole grain bread could be better.
And when i asked about white bread, answer was that its in national recommendation of daily nutrition of adult to have it 3 times a day.
Im coming from country where diabetes is one of the most common diseases and i have it in my family too and some friends who have it so i have good grasp of how you suppose to eat when you have it. And those lessons where common with people who has diabetes, i dont think those lessons where very precise for it. I think people here dont take it enough seriously.
And hospital food is aful here, there is no way around it, its not good anywhere but here in France, its something unbelievable. You can make tasty low salt and fat food, its not that difficult but, it just dont happen here.
And hospitals helpers are usually from hell, they dont respect here the patient or take consideration of current state of the patient. I am so sensitive for smells, so when there is helper coming to room at 6 am who has bathed in parfume its not really helping, other reason not to touch the lovely breakfast.I skipped in hospital 99% my breakfasts and i usually was able to eat less than 40% of my lunches and dinners.
But not everything was bad, nurses where nice mostly, and suprise was that most male nurses where able to speak english quite good, but female ones dont know how to speak or dont want to speak for woman. Wich is quite common allso outside of the hospital. So luckily all most every day/night staff had at least one male nurse. But doctors where allmost all able to speak english at least little and most of them where fluent.
So after all of this i dont have any reservation to go back to french hospital if i need to, but i sure hope i dont need to go. And apologies for my grammar, its not very good, but i hope you get the meaning of it. I wish you well and good recovery, and if you want to talk about these or anything considering of being foreign in France, feel free to write me .)

Katy | 28 July, 2010 - 10:46

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Wow! I can totally relate. My now-ex-husband shattered his leg in Carcassone and had to be hospitalized for a week. We were close enough to the Spanish border that more people spoke Spanish than English. He understands some Spanish, and I speak it fluently, so we got through it. I don't recall anyone raising their voices. One intern had studied in the States, so that helped.

The funniest hospital food occurrence was when we couldn't identify the meat on his plate, and the hand-written menu was illegible. We puzzled and puzzled until his room-mate leaned over and said "baaa-aaaa!".

I do hope you recover well!

tracylee | 28 July, 2010 - 23:57

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Wow Maki, that was one heck of an insect-bite! I always thought the 'bad hospital food' cliché was a bit exaggerated (as they say that about airplane food too and I never had a very gruesome meal in the air) but those shots you took look pretty bad :/ they even have the blah tea bags, that would drain all fun out of my morning.
I hope you recover soon!

Kim | 29 July, 2010 - 16:39

Feeding our curiosity!

Oh, Maki, is it terrible of me to feel simultaneously sorry for your Wound VAC experience (I had to wear one of those for some months, and my empathy for you is profound) AND delighted that it gave you a reason to feed my constant curiosity about other cultures' institutional food practices? I'm perpetually asking people what their countries serve in hospitals, school cafeterias, airplanes, and so on. (Unrelatedly, I also ask what animals in their languages "say": My Polish/Russian father said that Polish chickens go "cuck, cuck, cuck," and that Russian roosters say "ka-ka-choo," for instance.) Thank God your doctor okayed a laptop in your room, or we'd never have benefitted from your calamity!

Fat Lady | 29 July, 2010 - 20:30

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I am new to your blog but I enjoy reading it very much. I wish speedy recovery!
I had my surgery 4 weeks ago in NY. I only stayed for 2 days and a night there. The first meal I had there was horrible. I was in terrible pain; the look of the foods was so depressing; overcooked vegetable with a piece of dead meat! I remembered looking at them for hours but not touching them. I was given a morphine drip. Not sure if it was real or just mental; the pain got worse when I looked at or thought of the foods. I pressed the button for another dose of morphine every time I looked at the foods!
I believe hospital foods should be the best anywhere you can find in the world, better than foods in high-class restraints in NYC or Pairs!
People in hospitals are under physical and psychological stress, they need the best nutrients in the smallest amount of foods they can consumed. They have no appetite does not mean it is ok to feed them trash. Overcooking also causes lost of nutrients, waste of good foods. Hospital bill in US cost so much too.

amywsw | 30 July, 2010 - 04:01

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Hi Maki, so happy to here you got your walking papers *sans* pressure hose-thing-y! Necrotic insect bites are nothing to trifle with. I stayed in a francophone Belgian hospital for 5 days after my daughter was born, and the food was pretty much the same; except on Sunday they made an effort to put out nice food. It makes airplane food look luxurious. Best wishes to your father with his rehabilitation, and to your mother for her recovery. Life is unfolding and you'll be in the right place for your own recovery. Will it be in Provence or in Switzerland?

BrusselsSprout_Katharine | 30 July, 2010 - 14:41

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Hello Maki,

I've been following your blogs for some times now and I really appreciate them. I hope that your return to home is going smoothly and that you're not in pain anymore!

I may be have a hint about why the hospital gave you white bread, white rice and pasta (I'm french ^^)

Bread :
I think most french people use white bread like des baguettes for their daily need. For example when I was still at my parent's house and wanted cereal-bread or whole-wheat bread I had to ask my mother specifically to buy it otherwise she wouldn't buy it.

So most french people only eat white bread and that's why hospital don't provide other kind of bread.

Rice and pasta:
If you carefully look into the rice section in french supermarket you will fine all kind of white rice, and one or two kind of wild rice like riz de camargue and so. It's the same for the pasta section you will only find one or to brand that sell whole-wheat pasta. So people are still not really used to it. I think it's the same for hospital, they just provide food that the majority of people will "enjoy".

If you need help about anything in french or would like a french recipe, just let me know !

Kind regards

lelahelle | 30 July, 2010 - 20:46

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Hi, I've been reading your blog for a wee while and this is my first comment. I'm glad to hear you're back home and feeling better! Hope you'll recover fully soon. Take care!

Fanny | 1 August, 2010 - 15:35

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Re fruit: You might not be getting the regional fruit because, and this is typical also for US produce, farmers make more money exporting their goods, especially their nicer produce, than selling it in the country. It also may be that the hospital simply doesn't care to spend the extra money buying produce, either, and may also be working on some sort of food services contract where local produce production doesn't have any impact on what's being served.

Where I live it's frustrating how poor in quality produce is at grocery stores when my hometown, only three hours away, produces some of the biggest and beautiful fruits, but a lot of that big and beautiful fruit is shipped overseas. It's also frustrating how much said fruits are marked up at farmers markets. For example, Rainer cherries can go for about $4 a pound in Seattle, but back in Wenatchee they can go for at least half the price a pound. I didn't realize how much I had taken fruit for granted until I moved away from my hometown. :(

Anyway, did they ever tell you what insect may have caused the bite? Now I'm scared of being bitten, and I already hate bugs!

CS | 2 August, 2010 - 10:29

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Wow, I somehow missed this post! So glad to hear that you are recovering ok and are now out of the hospital. I can only imagine how weird and scary that experience must've been... Necrotic tissue problems scare the hell out of me.

I, too, was thinking "brown recluse" when reading your story. I doubt though that they have relatives of them over there, though maybe there's some other spider whose bite causes similar issues.

Regardless, I hope that your wound closes quickly and heals cleanly.

How many languages do you now speak? And what brought you over to Europe in the first place, after living in America so long? Mr. Guy?

Take care, get well soon.

~ Shari

Shari | 4 August, 2010 - 06:24

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

French hospitals are not gastronomic restaurants, that's a fact. But every hospitals doesn't provide you the same quality of food. It absolutely depends on the establishement. I've spent 6 months in a nightmare hospital (what's more in order to gain weight), where the food justed looked like vomit (sorry for the comparison...). So when I see your meals (great idea to photograph it, by the way), i just envy you !!! The worst was the bread...a greyish plastified roll with no taste at all except perhaps a slight smell of dust. I had to saok it in soup to be able to absorb it. I brought one evil bread at home to show my family the ordeal that I endured. Believe it or not, the bread which is now more than two year old, has hold his shape, his color, his look, and is only hard as rock (honestly I've tries to cut it with the sharpest knife but it's just indestructible) I'm actually thinking to leave it as a legacy to my future children..^^

Lo | 4 August, 2010 - 14:53

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

oh Dear, I am French, and I agree with everything you said. And I got to say, Hospital food like that, I would give it to my dog :-S.. but..sigh, they say it is good for your health.
Get well .

anon. | 20 August, 2010 - 06:32

Internet friends are certainly a great help

When reading your post, I was wondering how your internet pals could be of that much help and confort. And then, I saw all these comments, and their average length. Now, I must say that I understand your feelings.

I am a old reader of Justhungry.com, justbento.com AND hungry for words blogs, and I wanted to join all the other readers and wish you a good and fast recovery. What you lived was indeed very painful.

And, please continue to appreciate food ! Appreciating food keeps us appreciating life and being optimistic ! :)

Momix | 31 August, 2010 - 16:31

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

"I witnessed the nurses, nurses’ aides, ambulance workers and so on talk to him LOUDLY, as if he were deaf, and also talk down to him as if he were a child. I don’t know if this is the natural inclination of hospital workers, but to me it’s a horrible, demeaning way to talk to adult patients. "

Haha! Actually it is. Well my mother is a nurse and every time I have to deal with nurses at hospitals in Paris I go complain to her because they need to scream instead of just talking. They do that with everybody, not only foreigners. I thought that it is because they have to deal with many elderly people or nearly unconscious ones. Also if you live outside a big city, in the case of France let's say outside Paris area (There are not real big cities in France), your chances to find international places where you can find bilingual staff are quite poor. It is normal and I think it is the same in any country where you don't need to speak English, I don't think it is a problem of French who don't want to speak something else than French.

anon. | 5 September, 2010 - 15:56

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I am Madame Méchante now, and when I worked in the British Hospital of Paris, and there Madame Méchante was the worst I ever meet!!!Matron !!!I remember....

You don't know what we have to do, and an hospital is not a palace. French Medecine is one of the best that's why British come here.

jb | 30 September, 2010 - 08:06

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

Do eu citizens who do not speak say french and are hsopitalised in france have any right to a translator, if so could you point me at the loi please, this is rather urgent!

anon. | 9 November, 2010 - 14:00

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I have absolutely no idea. A food blog is probably not the best place to look for such advice...maybe ask your embassy? ^_^;

maki | 9 November, 2010 - 21:25

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

My husband was hospitalised in Toulouse in a huge industrial hospital staffed by a whole army of Mme Mechantes :(, to food appeared a little better than yours though.
The thought of that place gives me nightmares!

anon. | 13 December, 2010 - 13:20

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I know this comment is suuuper late, but I have to say, that food looks amazing compared to what we have in our nearest hospital! (I'm living in New York) - you're lucky to get meals like that for sure. Biscotte? Pah. Have some sugar free gelatin! It does depend on what you're admitted for, but they really tend to favour the whole "clear liquids" philosophy, as well as canned green beans.

:> | 3 October, 2011 - 08:26

Re: Stuck in a French hospital

I enjoy reading your blogs and love your attitude toward all things. Bento boxes are my weakness with shrimp, yams and rice. I could eat it every day.

I was so worried to hear about you not feeling well and your experiences in the hospital. Some things are harder to take when you don't feel well. I now see that your usual zest for all things has gotten you through the experience and hopefully you are on the road to feeling well soon.

anon. NanGreen | 24 January, 2012 - 20:40

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