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Mindful Café and Healing Garden

250 Prospect Place, Coronado

Hospital meals? I'm giving them a second chance.

It happened like this: Carla had insisted — again — that we go to Coronado. "Friends," she said, in that way that toldme these friends were about 20 kudos-levels above us.

"They're lovely people," she said. "Have this lovely place. Travertine marble floors..."

"Like the clack-clack-when-you-walk-on-it type of marble?"

"Bedford, Bedford, has it been that long since you've enjoyed the privilege of marble beneath your feet?"

We walked up to the door, knocked, saw that big smile of the "friend" who'd done well. Remembering it now, the next part goes slo-mo. Ever the gallant, I motioned to Carla, "You go first, Milady." And that's when it happened. She turned to give me a "Thank you, Jeeves" kind of smile, then turned back, caught her right toe on the threshold, and... ker-blam!

I couldn't believe it. Carla was down. Howling. Something about her arm, and her leg.

Fast-forward. She's looking up at me from a Sharp Coronado Hospital bed, while I'm trying not to say, "See what happens when you visit somebody with Travertine floors?"

She knows what's coming. "One word, Bedford and I'll..."

"Heh heh," I say. "Now I have you in my power. You will do everything I say, capeesh?"

But the poor girl's in pain. Real pain. "Cut to the chase, Bedford. You want my meal, right?"

As it happens, there is this tray of, like, health drinks, coffee, fruit, a dinner roll, and a big mystery meal under a green plastic-plate cover. The plate underneath seems to float in hot water.

"Well, just to help you out, sweetheart. Why don't I play father and feed you. 'Here comes the choo-choo train!' One mouthful, then daddy takes one to show it's okay. Okay?"

"Have it, have it. You're such a gent. God, this hurts." She turns to the nurse. "Get me some morphine, for Chrissakes!"

I see a menu on the tray. "Lunch," I read out. "Calorie controlled. Please circle your selection."

There's an appetizer of either turkey rice soup or tossed garden salad. Under the green crown is either a BBQ chopped-beef sandwich or a chicken pot pie, or a chicken-salad sandwich. The "Vegetables and Starches" section says we're getting "oven-roasted potato wedges" and green peas or Italian mixed vegetables.

Not bad by half. Particularly after all the running 'round I've been doing, finding Carla's toothbrushes and brushes and -- can you believe it? -- the makeup she's insisted that I bring from home. I am one hongry Man Friday.

I take the lid off the main dish. It's the chicken pot pie. They must have circled it for her. Pity. I was hoping for the BBQ beef. But no way am I going to ask for returns.

I roll the whole tray-trolley affair over Carla's bed. I'm about to start that stupid "choo-choo" routine when I see sweat beads on her forehead. Oh man, she's hurting.

"Get it out of here. I can't eat."

I pull the tray back. But...someone has to honor this meal. So I shake up the bottle of Boost, a vitamin concoction, and give it a try. Vanillerish, milky. Not bad. Down in two glugs. Then I take the plastic lid off the little mug of turkey rice soup. Mmm. Honest, momsy nourishment. And yes, with that first scoop of chicken pot pie, I do feel like a scavenging hyena.

Ohmygod. "Sweetheart. You've got to try this! It's grrr-eat! Chicken, carrots, spuds, peas...I dunno. Maybe it's the combo. Or maybe it's the" -- I read from the menu -- "'creamy poultry gravy.' Whatever, it's terrific."

It really is. I can imagine some white wine in this little sucker.

"Give me one spoonful," says Carla.

"Okay. Here comes the choo-choo..."

"Can it, Bedford!"

But she takes the spoonful. For a moment, her eyes go soft. "Not bad. Jeez. First decent hospital food in my life, and you get to eat it. You have all the luck."

In a way she's right, because in the days since, I've come for breakfast, lunch, and dinner -- just to help her out, you understand, Carla doesn't get more than half down -- and the food is always pretty good. Like, yesterday's breakfast was a banana, cranberry juice, oatmeal, scrambled eggs on English muffin with, okay, margarine, and cawfee. Carla doesn't get more than half down. Dinner last night was cracked pepper Parmesan chicken breast with oregano, basil, and olive oil. Darned tasty morsel. Dessert was a fine angel food cake and fresh fruit. Sometimes it's a little stark, like the chicken fajita, which wasn't bad, but we should have had the Yankee pot roast. But, sigh, it's Carla's choice -- she's the patient.

"Bedford," she said, after the little discussion we had over her picking the fajitas, "if I wasn't in love with you, I'd suspect you were only being this attentive to get free meals."

'Course I fell back in shock. Though, actually, we've eaten here before, downstairs at Cathie's Place, the open-to-the-public staff cafeteria. I'd heard it was run by Marriott. Well, turns out the whole hospital is fed by Marriott. That explains a lot.

Only two problems now: one, Carla's getting her appetite back -- my portions are shrinking like an African watering hole in adrought; and two, as soon as she gets out, guess who's gonna have to cook from here to kingdom come?

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