This year’s Semmelweis Day, July 1, was a special holiday in health care, hopefully a kind of end to this phase of epidemic. However, we cannot go on as if nothing had happened. Therefore, the Bethesda Children's Hospital of the Reformed Church in Hungary has dedicated itself to publishing a special book: it presents the ‘heroes’ of the recent period, those working in healthcare, through publishing their favorite recipes and dishes.
With the title Written on a recipe - this is how we cook at Bethesda Children’s Hospital, the hospital has published a cookbook, bringing the everyday life of the health institution closer to the readers. As György Velkey, the director general of the hospital, puts it: “Working long hours a day together to treat and heal children and then dropping exhausted at the nurse’s desk or in the medical room, among many other things, also questions about food come up: What did you eat? What did you cook? And in answering these simple questions often stories of experiences emerge about distant homes, events and cultures. And over time, the recipes and memories shared by the colleagues somehow become part of the shared experience of our community, especially that the dishes themselves are actually shared at common dinners of the staff on duty, or when we gather around the table at festive events. These tastes and moods sort of call for being kept and recorded - at first on a piece of paper, then in form of a beautiful book illustrated with pictures. Well, that's how this book was born out of conversations, shared personal experiences and stories of our employees, who comes from many different cultures. It emerged from the shared joy which we experienced in our study rooms, at festive dinners in the season of Advent, during our excursions, and joint dinners when we baked and cooked together. This book demonstrated our fellowship based on solidarity.”
The first of July is a major holiday for healthcare professionals in Hungary as this is the day we celebrate the birth of the physician who played a major part in defeating childbed fever, the “Savior of mothers”, Ignác Semmelweis. On this day, we celebrate healthcare professionals and thank their tremendous work they do for patients every day throught the year.
Nóra Bese, communications director of the hospital and editor of the book, revealed how the idea came about for a children's hospital to publish a cookbook. “It was the 40th day of quarantine, when the tense anticipation, constant state of critical preparedness, and the ongoing organizational challenges that transformed the everyday life of our children’s hospital and the society as a whole, started to annoy me. I felt like I wanted to somehow forget it, to leave it behind. I recognized the same feeling and state of mind in the staff of the Hospital, in the healing community of Bethesda. This is how the idea popped into my head to capture somehow together the memory of this strange, unifying, yet distancing quarantine time. How to do it? Let us talk about the food of our everyday life, I said, and about the contexts that inspired those dishes. Let’s celebrate how diverse we are, how many different ways we bake and cook, and how our lives have changed during the epidemic.”
For the sake of better understanding, readers have to be aware that in Hungarian recipe and medical prescription are expressed with the same word.
The director's special herbal teas, the surgeon's Strapacska (sheep cheese dumplings), the head nurse's camp ratatouille, the physiotherapist's cottage cheese noodles, the gastroenterologist's bean soup or the hospital hygienist's apple pie are not only dishes worth being prepared. The recipes also reflect stories of hope encouraging to gratefully recognize that our health and the health of our children is in the hands of a healing community whose members bear up and persevere under all circumstances.
Translated by András Tóth