Hospital Bed Picnic | The Geneva Convention: Hospital Bed Picnic

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hospital Bed Picnic

The night before we were set to leave for a race in Marquette, my father crashed his road bike. It was a weird accident that smashed up his helmet, fractured his shoulder, and removed a frightening amount of skin from the left side of his body. He's on the mend, weaning off the painkillers, and even using the sling as a makeshift purse to hold his phone and car keys, but he went straight from his crash site to the hospital, and didn't leave for two days. It was a time of lots of worry and very little sleep.

Naturally, my mother spent as much time there as she could, while I took on my role as support staff -- doing coffee runs (even in the hospital, he was jonesing for his Starbucks!) and grocery shopping. After mom had a bad experience in the cafeteria at lunch time, I offered to bring us all a picnic so we could eat dinner together. I've always felt that having family members around in these situations is almost a necessity. The patient isn't necessarily their own best advocate, if only due to morphine, and having people there to ask questions and keep company makes it less bleak. Mom and I stayed until the night nurse kicked us out. I'm just grateful I had the opportunity to help out.

Pesto Pasta Salad
Pinic on the hospital bed

Now, on to the food! The name of the game with picnics is easy, portable, and delicious-when-cold. I decided that pasta salad would fit the bill, and since I wanted it to taste fresh and as un-hospital-y as possible, I decided to flavor it with fresh pesto. The other most important thing about picnics is convenience. I packed us a large container of the pasta salad (enough to serve more than just the three of us), along with a serving spoon, a smaller container of freshly shredded parmesan, and small disposable salt and pepper shakers. Every weekend we make an enormous salad that serves us throughout the week, and I packed each of us a single-serving container of that so we could get some veggies as a first course and use it as a bowl for the pasta afterwards. To go with the salad I brought craisins, a container of shelled pistachio nuts, and a bottle of homemade dressing. After that, I just added in paper napkins and spoons and forks. I arranged it all in a reusable shopping bag and headed for the hospital!

Pesto Pasta Salad:
(Serves 7-8 or more, depending on serving sizes)
1 lb orzo pasta (it was all we had on hand, but I think rotini would also be great, if not better)
1 8 oz ball buffalo mozzarella
3-4 tomatoes on the vine
Extra parmesan to garnish
4 large handfuls of fresh basil (it's hard to estimate; basically just fill the food processor up with it!)
2 cubic inches parmesan cheese OR 1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pepper (or more to taste)
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons

Start the water boiling for the orzo and cook it according to the instructions on the package.

Get to work on the pesto. In a normal food processor, it should be as simple as dumping in all the ingredients! Even the parmesan and garlic should be suitably ground up after a minute or two under the blades. When the pesto is nice and uniform, set it aside.

Dice the tomatoes and shred the mozzarella (admittedly, this is difficult. It's easiest when the cheese is cold, but there will still probably be some parts you want to chop up smaller with a knife.)

When the pasta is done cooking, run cool water over it, toss it back into the pot, and stir in the shredded mozzarella, tomatoes, and pesto.

Garnish with whole basil leaves and more parmesan cheese, and enjoy with loved ones, ideally outside.

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