Your first reaction is that both are quite bad, or perhaps even tolerable, given the circumstances. I can probably count on one hand my decent airline meals, and most of those were on Singapore Airlines.
My best hospital meals were at UC Berkeley. I contracted pneumonia as a sophomore there and was also hospitalized with a mysterious and unknown virus while I was in grad school. And I must tell you, the food was well above average, perhaps even pretty good. Why?
I found out the UC Berkeley’s Cowell Memorial Hospital does not have a cafeteria or its own food services. All the food came from across the parking lot, the famous Faculty Club. Once I had an appetite, meal selection became great fun. The menu for the next meal would arrive, and I could select any or all of the items on the list. And it was all pretty darn good, certainly several steps above dorm food (Undergrad), and better even than my ex-wife’s cooking (grad school)!
The best airline meals occur when I am in either Business or First Class. The only exception to this was back in the 80s, when the major airlines had a buffet on board (even in coach). I recall several United flights to Washington DC from SFO. As my row was called up to the buffet, I could make my own deli or Hofbrau style sandwich and sides. But the best part was the dessert, as they had a soft ice cream dispenser with all the goodies!!
I probably should not tell you about the worst meals. I have no other hospital meal experience, other than at UC Berkeley. But I have a good friend who eats more than 50% of his dinner meals at the hospital. He is a lifelong bachelor, holds two or three jobs at any time, and cannot be bothered with cooking. When he gets off work around 3pm, he goes to an afternoon matinee at the cinema, then goes over to one of the major hospitals for his dinner. Since he can afford to eat anywhere, he chooses, I find his choices rather curious.
My understanding is the best hospital food in the world can be found at famous Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok. I do not intend to find out, but they have several famous chefs, ready to prepare whatever the patient and their family requests.
As far as the worst airline food, the US based airlines are always the worst. Almost any foreign airline, at least pre-pandemic, served better, more recognizable food than our legacy carriers. If I had to choose, Alaska and Hawaiian are my choices for the best domestic meals. In fact, for a period, Hawaiian First-Class meals were planned by Bev Gannon of Maui’s Halemaile General Store fame. And the Alaska flights up to Anchorage in First always have great seafood and ice cream.
Now that I think about it, dorm food reminds me the most of airline food. Banquet food fits in somewhere rather low in the pecking order as well. Remarkably, one rather short one-hour flights in Asia, all the airlines provide a full meal and beverage service (at least, pre-pandemic). It is reminiscent of a fire drill, but the flight attendants get the job done!
Most of you know by now to either bring your own food and snacks or eat before boarding. You are on your own to figure out the hospital food. Over the years, I have many friends who were hospitalized, beg me to bring a hot dog or burger. In Third World countries, families are expected to provide food for their family member who is hospitalized.
OK, friends, relatives, and others, you have been warned!