The Comfort of Food

It turns out it is impossible to write a food blog when one is struck by a violent stomach bug. Have no fear dear reader, no graphic details follow.

Down for the count for most of last week, I lost six pounds (we’ll see how long that lasts) and am only now, gingerly, making my way back into the land of food. No recipes today. I think most folks know how to make white rice, apple sauce, and black tea, which is pretty much all I had.

But now that I’m on the mend, I’ve been thinking about how much joy gets sucked out of your world when you can’t break bread with people.

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Last week I canceled two cooking classes. Gone, too, was the spanakopita I intended to serve at the annual staff appreciation lunch at my kid’s school. Ditto the chocolate-mint frosted cupcakes for the spring fair bake sale. And the lemon blueberry bundt cake my son and I wanted to make to thank our neighbor Lance for his many kindnesses, like mowing our “lawn” and sharing baseball tickets. When you’re unable to eat you also miss out on all those lunches, dinners, tea breaks, and quick drinks with friends that get penciled onto the calendar before illness comes calling.

Life sans sustenance, and the social interaction that goes with it, is a bit grim. And yet in the middle of the worst of it, my ten-year-old was delighted to have a go at making his own dinner. And he took on the task of ferrying glasses of water from the kitchen to the couch with great diligence. When I was able to keep a modest bowl of plain white rice on board I was both happy and humbled. Friends rallied by offering to feed and entertain the offspring —  or simply showed up with ginger ale, diluted broth, or whatever else they thought might ease my suffering.

When I started penning these posts a couple of months ago, my intention was to focus on eating lots of leafy vegetables and whole grains. You know, the sort of food that is supposed to keep you healthy.  Funny how unappealing all that wholesome stuff sounds when you’re sick. I have a pantry packed with brown food and a fridge full of green veggies that I literally can’t stomach. And when I think of my last pre-sickness supper — a quick pasta fix with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, pine nuts, blue cheese, and cream — I still wince. I don’t think I’ll be able to face this former favorite for quite some time.

Enough with all this illness, it’s time to return to the world of wellness, eating, and a regular routine.  But before I do, I’m curious to hear from others about what kinds of food they turn to when they’re under the weather. Growing up, we used to get dry toast with just the thinnest coating of Vegemite, that dark, pungent, yeasty spread that Australian kids consume with abundance and many Americans would likely feel sick at the sight — and smell — of. These days, it’s not what I’d seek out for comfort when I’m feeling crook (that’s Aussie slang for sick).

Everyone seemed to have a cure for what ailed me. Haiga rice said one. Some kind of fermented Japanese food I didn’t quite get the name of said another. The ubiquitous chicken soup added a veritable army.

So what soothes your stomach when it’s out of sorts? Chime in with your tried-and-true health tonic. In the meantime, keep well.

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5 Responses to “The Comfort of Food”

  1. MP Says:

    Cinnamon toast!

  2. Susanne Says:

    Umeboshi-Kuzu Drink

    A Japanese home remedy that we use at my house. Whenever my daughter is having any kind of stomach problems, she asks for this drink.

    1 umeboshi plum, pickled Japanese plum
    1 1/3 cup water
    1 tablespoon kuzu, white chunky starch
    3 tablespoons cold water
    1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
    7 drops of ginger, grate ginger on fine grater and squeeze pulp to extract juice

    1. Break umeboshi plum into several pieces.
    2. Put in a small pot and add water
    Dissolve kuzu in 3 tablespoons water and add to pot.
    4. Cook stirring until liquid becomes clear and slightly thick.
    5. Add soy sauce and ginger juice, stir and serve immediately.

  3. anothermama Says:

    What about the ginger ale thing? This is what my mom gave us when we ailed (with anything); wee sips. I’ve heard its curative powers are myth; and the opposite. Whichever, it tastes nice when down and out.
    Good healing to you!

  4. Sarah Henry Says:

    Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll add them to the mix.

  5. Bettina Says:

    Thanks for the tips, very helpful.

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