Well, it finally happened. That scratchy throat I thought was just a ragweed allergy blossomed (heh, but ouch) into a full-blown flu earlier this week, and it looks like I wasn’t the only one struck down by the bug. As the only cook in the house, when this happens, I have no recourse (and no appetite) to do anything but rely on the simplest foods.
The childhood taste memory I summon most often in these miserable moments is my mom’s cinnamon sugar toast—always on well-browned wheat bread and cut on the bias into triangles. I use a ratio of 3 parts sugar to 1 part cinnamon, or one tablespoon of sugar to each teaspoon of cinnamon, and stir up a whole bunch in an old jam jar to keep in my pantry. When I don’t have any homemade bread in the fridge, I’m partial to the Vermont Bread Company’s multigrain flavor, but I’ll take anything that provides a good crusty crunch against the heavy sprinkling of sweet.
Although I do have chicken stock in my freezer, when I’m sick, I seem to crave the kind of sodium that only processed food can offer. I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve purchased Cup o’ Noodles at Duane Reade in particularly dark moments, but at home I always keep ye olde bouillion cubes in the pantry to soothe me. Two cups of water and two chicken bouillion cubes are brought to a boil, then I toss in a handful of whatever small/thin pasta is around (ditalini, orzo, or udon are my favorite choices). The key, if I have it available, is thinly sliced green onion on top. Something about the bite of the scallions cuts through my clogged sinuses and adds just enough nuanced flavor to the broth.
And along with copious amounts of tea, there is nothing more appealing to take the itch out of a hot, sore throat than carbonated beverages. But not ginger ale—am I a masochist to say I prefer ginger beer? I have been a Stewart’s Ginger Beer addict ever since I spent the summer at Interlochen Arts Camp and subsisted mainly on it and Slim Jims for eight weeks (sorry, Dad—money well spent!), but my recent obsession is Maine Root Ginger Brew. I want the strongest burning sensation I can find in my ginger beer to scorch the existing fire out of my throat. If that’s too much for some, may I recommend Maine Root’s signature root beer? Throw a scoop of vanilla ice cream into that and it sounds like the perfect remedy for a couch-bound, flu-stricken invalid.