Thursday, August 26, 2010

Huntington Memorial Hospital Cafeteria - Pasadena

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I never intended the blog to be a personal one. I figured I'd concentrate mainly on food. But as more and more of my family started reading it, the blog served to document, well, my family -- weddings, births, and milestones -- all through the lens of food. And yet, there were some posts that I couldn't write. Not then.

Two years ago, my oldest uncle was in the hospital for more than two months. He's been battling an autoimmune disease for more than two decades and his cancer had been in remission for a decade when it returned that spring.

It was a pretty scary time. There was no way I could have written anything then. Heck, I couldn't even blog my strawberry Coca Cola ribs recipe because the story was attached to my oldest uncle.

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Several years ago, during one Christmas, he told me he liked my blog. What? How did he know? Who told? Did one of my cousins accidentally leave the page open?

Oldest uncle said he liked that I wrote about my ba noi (Vietnamese paternal grandmother). How come my parents didn't know about it? Umm. That's because I didn't tell any of the adults? From then on, he would occasionally ask about the blog or send me links to articles about Vietnamese food.

During one of my visits that spring, he suggested I go down to the cafeteria with my cousins. I could blog about the food, he said.

My cousins ordered chicken sandwiches.

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While I got chicken fried steak with cream gravy and collard greens.

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And we gazed at the view. Afraid to speak of our greatest fear.

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Thankfully, my uncle pulled through.

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I was reminded of when my ba noi (Vietnamese paternal grandmother) was in the hospital. She had gathered albums and albums of photographs through the years. Some of them were entirely devoted to horizontal pictures of her. Another album with vertical pictures. Albums for traveling. Albums for all of us.

As she lay in her hospital bed, we took some of the last pictures we ever would with her.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say, that tacit understanding that this is part of life, so we try to go about it as normally as we can, regardless of the circumstances.

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My uncle went in for surgery again. And I didn't even know until my dad called me asking if I'd heard any word of how it went.


Thankfully, oldest uncle is now at home and resting.

And this post could finally move off my queue, those particular fears, allayed for now.

And if you ever do come to Huntington Memorial Hospital, hopefully in happier circumstances, the cafeteria has a great view and the food isn't half bad. Hospital room menus even include rice porridge for breakfast.

Huntington Memorial Hospital
100 W. California Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91105

1 year ago today, Bun Thit Nai Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Noodles with Grilled Lemongrass Venison).
2 years ago today, part five of my "How to Start a Food Blog" series -- Posting: Frequency, Topics, and Accuracy.
3 years ago today, Squash Blossom Omelet.


  1. So glad your uncle is home and resting, WC.

    I know what you mean about hospitals. I spent the last few weeks of my dad's life at the UCSF med center...little details of that hospital from the food to the furniture to the view are permanently etched in my head.

    Fortunately for me, Huntington Memorial only has happy memories for me as my son was born there. I also used to go to a weekly nursing group there when I was on maternity leave and have lunch with the moms at the cafeteria afterward. It was kind of weird socializing in a hospital cafeteria, but I looked forward to the grown-up conversation after being cooped up in the house with a newborn every day. :)

  2. Ah, hospital food. The number of times I have eaten my father's meal, so they he could eat what my mother cooked (he felt bad leaving the food and wanted the nurses/orderlies to think he'd eaten it all, so I chowed down on bland, bland chicken and potatoes and white bread and awful soup).

    Glad to hear your uncle is resting up at home. It's great to have a large family for these difficult life moments.

  3. I'm glad to hear your oldest uncle is doing a lot better. Hospital food is a lot better than it used to be.

  4. I like this post for the perspective it gives. Life isn't always all gravies and that's just the way things are. I feel that things good and not so good all have a purpose. The not so good events in our lives make us appreciate what we have more

  5. DG,
    I'm sorry about your loss. :(

    I can still picture my grandma looking out the window at the hospital, wanting to go home so bad, but not being able to. All the numerous pin pricks on the tips of her fingers as the nurses tested her glucose levels before every meal.

    Thankfully, the last time I was at Huntington hospital was when my niece was born. The maternity ward is a far happier place for sure. :)

    Bland is healthy, right? :P

    I was really surprised at the many Asian dishes the hospital offered. I wonder how much of that is because it's in SoCal though?

    Thanks. I know there are some readers who just want the recipes, or the restaurant reviews. Who disassociate the person from the content. So I appreciate all the more the ones who read all of it.


  6. Hey, WC--this was a great post. Very touching and thought-provoking. Anyone who's been there knows what it's like: to have that knot in your stomach, at odds with food that's surprisingly good, but you're in no mindset to do more than notice...and continue worrying. It's tough.

    Glad to hear your uncle's doing well...and that he enjoys your blog. Continue bringing happiness to many with your words and pictures.

  7. Meowmi,
    Thanks sweetie. We'll have to catch up soon!

  8. Oh, dear. I am just now reading this post. It's awful hard going through that process (thank goodness he's better) but what gives extra poignancy to this (for me) is the fact that he enjoyed your blog. Funny how the unexpected can pop up in life. And how lovely that he gave you an assignment! He sounds like a special person.

  9. Tammy,
    My family is very close, so things like this are always hard to deal with. Life always throws out something unexpected. Just gotta get through it.


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