Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Sick Cook's Food Cure


I've been felled by a nasty bout of bronchitis and stuck in bed since Friday. All desire to cook has deserted me, as has almost all desire to eat. Great for my waistline, but not for much else. Except, perhaps, for making food lists. I love hearing about what other people love to eat: when they're sick, when they're craving something, when they're dying. One of my favourite parts of Nigella Lawson's Feast, one of my top food books of all time, is the "Last Meals" section where she describes the final meals of American death-row inmates (morbid, but fascinating), and then lists the meals she would want as her own last. When I met her a couple of years ago, I asked her if her own had changed in the intervening time: it had, since she used to want steak and now all she wants is potatoes, every which way. A woman after my own heart. I'm not, thankfully, dying, so today's list is the things I can't do without when I'm under the weather. To you, they might seem eccentric. To me, they're essential and, as these kinds of lists always are, totally personal: based on the things that my mother liked to eat and to feed me, as hers did before her, and on the things I'll probably give my own kids. So what's on your list? Tell me: I'm all ears, between the coughs.

1. Ice-cold apple juice. Does anything feel better on a sore throat? My dad handed me a bottle after some dental surgery I had as a teenager, and it might've been the anaesthetic, but it's still one of the best things I've ever tasted.

2. Scrambled eggs. Eggs are my ultimate comfort food, and there's no texture more comforting, and as undemanding, as softly scrambled. No toast. Just golden silkiness.

3. Builder's tea made with honey. Recipe: get your biggest mug, and spoon in a good dollop of unpasteurized honey. Add one Tetley tea bag. Fill with boiled water, top with a generous splash of milk. Imperative: leave the bag in. It should be strong enough, as the Irish say, to dance a jig on. Stir, blow, drink. Honey is now being recognized as possibly just as effective as conventional cough suppressants, and it's supposed to have positive effects on the immune system too. I mostly love it because it tastes great.

4. Sapporo-style miso ramen with stir-fried veggies. Miso ramen is my vegetarian alternative to chicken noodle soup: soothing and nourishing miso broth, oodles of ramen noodles, and heaps of finely-julienned veggies. It's undemanding, uncomplicated, and easy to swallow. Delicious, too.

5. Vanilla coconut-milk ice cream. We're normally big into cherry and maple-walnut ice cream around here, but my sick-lady tastebuds steer toward the uncomplicated simplicity of plain ol' vanilla, spiked with coconut. Creamy, cold, and coconutty? That'll make anyone feel better.

6. Homemade chocolate pudding. Hey, it's got calcium and protein--it's practically health food. My recipe is very similar to this one, but I use more cocoa (about 6 tablespoons), less sugar (1/2 cup of brown), and add a bit of instant coffee to perk up the chocolate flavour. I also strain it at the end, because who wants lumps? Not me.

7. Whole-wheat saltines. My mother used to carry around sleeves of saltines to stave off morning sickness, and they're still the first thing I test my stomach with when I'm not feeling well myself. When I am well, I love them dunked in soup, but even better smeared with peanut butter.

image via carbonnyc, creative commons

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