Cooking chicken rice soup with vegetables. Chicken soup for dinner boiling in a pot on the stove

Brad had lost his vision along with the ability to digest food in the wake of a stem cell transplant — the only treatment for relapsed aggressive lymphoma. His doctors at UC Davis Medical Center’s bone marrow transplant unit put him on total parenteral nutrition, an IV solution of sugar, protein, and vitamins that met all his nutritional needs except fats; once a week, he got a bag of lipids.

Though TPN sustained his body for weeks, Brad needed to learn to eat again to leave the isolation unit. Hunched over the tray, he was profoundly uninterested in the hospital food provided for him three times a day. Eating, for most of us a pleasure, was for him a matter of deep anxiety and abdominal pain. Salty broth powder stirred into lukewarm water seemed unlikely to reawaken his appetite, which had entirely disappeared, or to bring him comfort.

Food for the sick wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, Brad’s Jell-O would have been wine jelly, and the reconstituted broth a clear consomme. Cookbooks and home economics manuals used to include sections on “invalid cookery” as a standard part of domestic instruction. Why was the stuff on Brad’s hospital tray so deeply unappetizing? How did we get here? And, most urgently for me, how the hell was I going to get my husband to eat?

“Nourish” and “nurse” share the same root, the Latin nutrire, to feed, support, or preserve. Before modern medicine, providing food was one of the at-home nurse’s only tools to promote healing or offer comfort to an ailing child, spouse, or parent.

Read more in Eater.

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  1. Hi everyone,

    My name is Clarissa and I want to take a moment to share an opportunity to participate in a caregiver well-being research study being conducted by UC, Berkeley’s Psychophysiology Lab. My lab is currently recruiting for this study testing in-home assistive technology for caregivers to those with dementia. This study is funded by the NIH and is completely free to participate. Participants will receive a kit containing home-monitoring sensors that aim to decrease caregiver stress and increase the safety of persons with dementia. We are closing recruitment on November 15th, so if you are interested in learning more, please visit our site at


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