"I often wonder how any food could possibly be so badly prepared and handled. In noir moments at hospitals or on long flights, I try to figure out how I would go about re-creating the horrors before me. Where would I start? In what diabolical cookbook would one find such recipes? On what ignominious grocery shelf is the special seasoning marked 'Institutional' that is surely used to impart the characteristic flavor and aroma, a combination of chemicals, foodishness, stale sweetness and desolation?" (p. 160)Sheraton explored the methods and motives of people who provided school lunches and breakfasts, hospital meals (after a two-week hospitalization, she emerged as a consultant), airline meals (back in the day when airlines provided little trays with what appeared to be meals), food in museum cafes, and prison food. She even visited an off-shore oil rig where -- improbably -- the food wasn't so bad. A historic note on food for the British military outposts in the mid-19th century made it clear that the problems she found were far from new.
Her analysis leaves little room for optimism. Lack of funds, need to please people with widely varying tastes and expectations, and many other obstacles seemed to de-rail any of her efforts to make improvements.
As food autobiographies go, this wouldn't be at the top of my list -- I prefer, for example, A. J. Liebling's Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris, which I think influenced Sheraton's title or Ruth Reichl's several volumes, which I think influenced her restaurant-review chapters. But it was a good read for my very snowy afternoon.