March 30, 2011

feeding the sick

A tall, three-storied dark chocolate cake, slathered on the outside with 2-inch thick dark chocolate ganache frosting. Inside, the cake layers are first covered with a thin layer of chocolate frosting before being topped with a delicious sour-cherry filling, with squashed juicy cherries embedded. I ate that cake all by myself, with a large bowl of whipped cream as side. With a dainty silver fork. That cake was all mine. And I was not in rags, looking like I just dragged my sorrowful feet through a three-month trek across the desert. I was dressed like royalty, like someone who knows how to enjoy a three-storied chocolate cake with a dainty silver fork.

When you are sick, and when there is not much that you can eat, your mind goes crazy. Above was the feverish fantasy I had one day when my limbs were wrapped around my belly button, fighting off aches and chills, determined to starve off the fever (and those nasty bugs causing my misery). But even as my body fatigued itself to fend off the attack of the mysterious but ferocious bug, my mind was alert and awake. It hungered for images of food. I know, I know. More noble minds crave for wise words, beautiful sounds and maybe even complicated mathematical problems to solve. Mine was the twisted hungry mind. I do not apologize.


So we've been sick for more than a week around here. Today is the first day we are all feeling human around here, with energy to hop around the house, and it's because we found out what we had was not the flu but the strep throat. Everyone else is on antibiotics except for me. I am the only soul without a temperature, and truly feeling on the good mend. I attribute that to my yoga practice and the bar of dark chocolate I secretly took bites of, an experiment to see if there truly are valuable anti-oxidants in dark chocolate. Apparently, there are. (And of course, all those garlic must have helped!!)

Today was a difference from the last days, when all of us were sick, coughing and sprawled around the house.

But, as S said it beautifully to me one day, "Though we are all sick [to a different degree], we help each other out."-- fetching straws, paper to blow our noses into, making tea, bringing food.

Food. It's tricky when you are sick: how to "starve the fever" but still keep the body nourished, and help it on its way to rejuvenation.

Food is even trickier when you are sick and your throat hurts from all that coughing.

First option we gravitated to was chicken soup. Something that will just slip silkily pass our tormented throats and soothe it. Of course every family has THE must-have ingredient and special recipes but I tend to use what we have or what we feel like. But first I marched off to Whole Foods to get chicken legs, chicken drumsticks, ginger, carrots, and literally took off with all the organic garlic they had in the store. (Also bought some ripe organic pears on sale. These delicious fruits with soft, sweet, and juicy flesh did not last long.)

Back in the kitchen, I browned the chicken legs lightly in some coconut oil (for its antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties), then threw in a million cloves of smashed garlic, some quartered onions, some carrots, a stick of cinnamon. Added water, brought to a soft boil, skimmed the froth, and then let simmer. It was well-received, sighs of relief heard around the table as we noisily slurped the warm soup. And I whole-heartedly believe we all slept better that night because of the soup.

I repeated same recipe a couple of times, using chicken drumsticks, and about the same ingredients, and probably more garlic every time,  thinking sinisterly that I was going to get to all those awful germs this time with the potent garlic. I think I even secretly whispered to those adorable little cloves of garlic to go get 'em.

But soon V began to complain: "We are having chicken soup again?"

This from the sickest person in the household.

I responded with, "What do you mean again? We are still sick. Moreover, when aunt M's family was sick, all her kids wanted to drink and eat for days was chicken soup."

"Yeah," V replied. "But can't we have something different? How about chicken porridge?"

I thought to myself, "Isn't that about the same thing? It's essentially chicken soup with rice added! I can handle that... ..."

So I made chicken porridge, adding a knob of smashed ginger, rice and some sweet peas to the chicken soup "recipe." V declared it "yummy!" I just wanted her to be able to eat something, and I also desperately wanted everyone to be healthy again.

Then we went back to another meal of chicken soup. But after that I made something slightly different. I think when children are sick and offered the same things over and over again, they begin to feel there is no end in sight, it is the same again and again and likewise they will never feel better. When served something different they are delighted and I absolutely believe that little perk in their moods contribute to recovery.

So I made noodle soup in chicken broth, with meatballs. It is the same recipe as the asian-style meatballs, except I made them smaller, and they were dropped in a diluted chicken broth to cook. It takes a bit more time and effort, having to cook the meatballs, noodles and spinach separately. But it was worth the effort, as the girls were pleased the flavor (and the departure from chicken soup). And, when the children have been feeling unwell, nothing is worth more than seeing their little faces brighten up with a smile. I took a quick picture of Sophia's bowl before she dug in (she loves this Japanese soup bowl, always eager to get to the bottom so the cute kitty cat can be revealed):

Noodles in light chicken broth, with tiny meatballs and Chinese spinach
And because I myself needed to find some cheer amidst the gloom of our ailments, I played with my food:

Fishies want their noodles too!

Eventually, even I tired of chicken soup and noodle soup and variations of those. One of the favorite food options in this house is salmon, and we were all beginning to crave some miso (perhaps a gut reaction to the antibiotics prescription), so I made for dinner last night a miso-salmon soup, based loosely on this recipe.I used what vegetables I had (carrots, asparagus, broccoli) and added some soba noodles (cooked separately) to the broth, as the girls love those. It was a very comforting dinner, full of goodness. I am thinking this could be a good (and relatively fast and speedy) dinner for a crisp autumn evening too. Definitely a good base recipe for numerous variations.

I did not work on the "presentation" for this one, I just wanted a snapshot to remember it!
So that's how and what we have eaten the past days. We are very much looking forward to 100% good health and lots more good food (I see the delicious champagne mangoes are on the market! Can't wait to get to them!!)
What about you?? What do you eat when your health is down? What nourishes, what entices??

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