Thursday, 10 July 2008

Rainy Day Sickie

Yesterday was one of those bleary mornings where I felt like I had just fallen asleep only to wake up again. I'm not sure what it feels like to be near death, but I sure didn't feel very lively. Instead, I felt sore-throaty and head-achey. I felt tired; bone-tired. As I drove my eldest daughter to school, I took stock of the vile weather -- cold and wet -- and I concluded that what I really felt like doing was going straight back to bed. So I did.

Is there anything more delicious than playing hooky for the day? (Yes, I did think that I was really, really ill . . . but it doesn't change the fact that I had a hundred things to accomplish that day, and instead, I just buried my head in a pillow.)

I knocked myself out with some super-strength paracetemol, and slipped in between the cool, silky sheets. I then proceeded to sleep until noon. What bliss.

Then there was the kind of transitional stage, between sleeping and upright wakefulness, which I would like to be allowed to experience every day. My idea of a nice transitional stage is to have a cup of tea (or two) and read for a little while in bed. Maybe a few cat stretches. Maybe a little more dozing.

By one pm, I was starting to feel a tad hungry . . . and so was my youngest daughter, who had presumably played computer games all morning. We agreed that some cinnamon toast would be a marvellous way to ease our fragile tummies into the day. For those of you who weren't lucky enough to be made cinnamon toast when you were tiny tots, here is the recipe:

Cinnamon Toast
  • Spread some butter comprehensively over as many slices of bread as you feel you can manage to eat. Any bread will do, but it is nicest with white bread.
  • Mix a generous measure of ground cinnamon into a bowlful of granulated or caster sugar. The resulting mixture should be light brown -- or to taste.
  • Spread the cinnamon sugar generously over the buttered bread.
  • Toast (on a cookie sheet) in a moderate oven (375F/180C) until the cinnamon sugar and butter have melted together, but before the bread starts to burn.
  • Cut in triangles and eat, decadently, in bed or in front of the TV.

Although it is in no way health food, cinnamon toast is just the thing to immediately stabilize a depressed blood sugar. Also, it is a very comforting food to eat. Particularly if it is dripping rain outside when it is supposed to bright and sunny.

If stodgier fare is required, (as it will eventually be, particularly if you are more tired than sick), I recommend a baked potato. No rich accompaniments, though -- you need plain food if you are sick -- so just a dab of butter and some salt and pepper will dress it nicely. Like the cinnamon toast, the baked potato will taste better if you are eating it on a tray -- preferably while watching an Audrey Hepburn movie.

By mid-afternoon, and what with the medication, the sleep, and the carbs, I was started to feel a bit better. I was feeling better enough to contemplate some activity, and also better enough to start fretting about a day that was a total loss. I decided that some ironing was in order -- not only because I had a great pile of it to do, but also because it was the only chore that I could think of which would allow me to go on watching the Audrey Hepburn movie.

In addition to various other pieces of clothing, I managed to iron twelve of Sigmund's shirts. (This led me to wonder at Sigmund's profligate shirt-wearing behavior. I iron every week! How had Sigmund managed to dirty twelve shirts!!) I also managed to watch all of Sabrina, Paris When It Sizzles, and part of Roman Holiday. (By the time we got around to Roman Holiday, my grave illness was being studiously ignored by Sigmund and I was being called upon to deliver forth some dinner.

(A few comments on our Hepburn trilogy: I realized that, in a strange way, all of these movies have the same romantic arc/plot. Basically, a worldly, older man tries to manipulate or take advantage of the adorable ingenue. Although it looks touch and go for awhile, in each case the ingenue's winning ways triumph over middle-aged cynicism and Love conquers all. I would also add that we should have started with Roman Holiday -- as Gregory Peck is vastly preferable to either William Holden or Humphrey Bogart as a romantic hero. By the way, the word lugubrious could have been invented to describe Bogart's face.)

Although it is much nicer for someone to make dinner for you (especially if you are a sick person), here are some dinner suggestions which are suitable for a sick person who is required to cook.

First, a salad: rocket (from the garden), tomatoes, mozzarella and an avocado. With a bit of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar drizzled over the top. Freshly ground salt and pepper, of course. These are all gentle, soft foods -- perfect for an invalid in recovery.

Then, a glass of medicinal white wine -- to be taken with, and mixed into, the ersatz spaghetti carbonara.

(Not quite) spaghetti carbonara

  • Chop a small yellow onion as finely as you can manage, and then saute in a glug of olive oil until soft.
  • Fry some bacon or pancetta (the exact quantity of which should be a personal matter) until crisp. Drain the oil, and then throw it in with the onion.
  • Then, add some white wine (a couple of ounces?) and let it bubble away over a medium-low heat for about 5 minutes or so.
  • Cook some spaghetti until al dente.
  • Saving a bit of the cooking water, toss the spaghetti with that plus a large knob of butter.
  • Add the onion/bacon mixture and some grated parmesan cheese.
  • Serve to hungry, grateful, pasta-loving people.

Of course a "real" spaghetti carbonara has lots of cream and butter in it. I like to think of this as a lighter, healthier version. Because it manages to be both "plain" and yet flavorful, comforting and yet digestible, it is the perfect food for sick people who are contemplating a re-entry to the real world.

But that's just me. So what do you like to eat when you are sick?


Alyson said...

Cinnamon toast brings back lots of lovely childhood memories! Cinnamon is actually the one of the best things to stablize blood sugar. I've had issues for a long time with big dips in blood sugar. It's very easy for me to get shaky and near-fainting. So, I actually take cinnamon supplements. They really do help.

It sounds like you spent your sick day in such an ideal way. What could possibly be better than an Audrey Hepburn marathon? Though I did feel sorry that you had to get up and make dinner. My family isn't nearly as lucky when I'm sick. Usually Russ just throws something frozen into the oven when I've had one of those days.

As to what I eat when I'm sick - nothing too exciting or specific. Bland is usually preferable, and salty.

Anonymous said...

If I am really flat out sick well then I like soup,nothing with tomato ( I am assuming a sore throat ), split pea or of course chicken soup would make a perfect lunch for a sickie and my husband's shepherds pie which he serves up with great aplomb when I am not able to make it to the kitchen, this would be a rare event as I live in my kitchen. I'd prefer lucozade to drink (old childhood favorite) or proper cola, no diet stuff for this special day.

It must be different for the sexes as when The Bearded One gets flu, let me make this clear I do not regard 'man flu' as being ill in any way by female comparison, I really do not know what medical term it could really fall under but the diet is different, he want curry, fried eggs, bacon, toast and half a jar of jam, somehow rallying for beer and wine !

From Debski Beat still living in the Password Land Of The Dead.

Sarah Laurence said...

Bee, I'm so sorry you aren't feeling well. It just doesn't seem right that you are making your own sick comfort food.

When I'm sick I lose my appetite or I go back to my Jewish roots and want chicken soup. It really is meant to have healing properties! My husband makes it from his own chicken stock or gets some from the Wild Oats Bakery in Brunswick,Maine. I can't eat most English soups due to the heavy use of cream, but my mother in law makes fabulous cream free vegetable soups sometimes using pheasant stock. Luckily we've been healthy.

These past few days, I've felt under the weather too but more due to packing and leaving. It is amazing how much weather affects mood. As much as I don't like cold and damp, blistery hot and humid will be even worse in NYC. Hmm I'm not looking on the bright side today.

Actually I am cheery as our boxes just shipped out and all bags are packed! Still plenty to do in town and last minute packing before we really leave the house tomorrow morning.

Feel better - big hug.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Ah it must have been the weather because as soon as the first rain drop fell on Tuesday, I made a pot of chicken, veggie and rice soup. Roxi and I ate it for just about every meal over the course of two days. And not that this is good for illness of the body, but nothing cures homesickness for us better than Texas chili. I made some last night for my husband who has been travelling so much lately and feeling blue because of it. I also whipped up a batch of Homesick Texan's Flour Tortillas. It did the trick :-)

Today is sunny--hope that helps with your malaise. XOXO

Bee said...

I didn't know that about cinnamon. I have blood sugar issues, too. I get extremely narky when I need to eat.

I think that I would have to be on my deathbed before Sigmund would cook.

I also like popcorn (bland, yet salty) when I am just slightly sick.

Yes chicken soup and real Coke is ideal. (Sugar tastes wonderful when you are sick; saccharine tastes horrible. It was the same for me in pregnancy.)

Goodness, the Bearded One has a robust appetite for a sickie!

Best of luck to you during the move part of the move. I owe you a long email, and you are going to get it!

Chicken soup is, of course, the classic. And I want some saltine crackers to go with it, too!

Thanks, I am feeling better . . . although still not sleeping well. Last night was dire.
What is your recipe for chili? That sounds like such a lovely meal to come home to.

Sarah Laurence said...

Alyson and Bee, you both have blood sugar issues? So do I. I crash, shake, get irritable and can faint. I'm hypoglycemic and so is my doctor. We find the best preventive is to eat 4 meals a day plus a snack, avoid too many carbs, especially refined sugars, and eat enough protein. Dairy products and nuts are great. Drinkable yogurt is the best quick fix. I also have more problems when my weight gets too low. You two might want to check in with your doctors as it can be a pre-diabetic condition.

I'm glad you're feeling better, Bee.

JAPRA, nice day? I got totally soaked running errands in Oxford. The sun was shining while I was packing this morning, but at least I'm basically done other than computer back up and laundry. My son loves chili too. It will be odd getting backing to American food. I'd love to hear your recipe too.

Brave Sir Robin said...

My boys love cinnamon toast! You are right, btw - it must be made in the oven so the cinnamon/sugar can melt and caramelize.

I like potato soup when I'm not feeling exactly right.

Anne said...

Poor Bee! I do hope you're feeling better. But if you must be sick, it sounds like you made the best possible use of your day at home. I ate mounds of cinnamon toast when I was a child, and still make it now and then. Delicious!

I think that I would have to be on my deathbed before Sigmund would cook.

Same with the Suitor. He's happy to go get me take-out/away, but actually picking up a pot? Ha!

My favorite comfort food when I'm sick is a big bowl
(pot) of risotto. It's deeply satisfying, but not so rich (usually) that it's too much for a sensitive stomach. Of course, when I'm sick I'm rarely up to standing at the stove for half an hour, so I don't often get my wish.

If I can't do risotto, I go with my chicken and wild rice soup--made with homemade stock that starts with roasting a chicken. I make soup almost every time I roast a chicken, and keep it in the freezer for when I'm feeling under the weather. Chili is an excellent alternative, and I keep some of that in the fridge as well!

Cindy said...

Your recipe for cinnamon toast reminds me of how we used to eat rice, milk, and cinnamon for breakfast when we had white rice left over (of course we only ate white rice when I was a kid - not the brown and wild rice I make now haha). Just warmed a bit it was heavenly.
When I'm sick the old standby chicken noodle soup does the trick.
I hope you are feeling better soon.

Brave Sir Robin said...


That's interesting, my Dad (who grew up in North Texas) told me that growing up, the only way he ever ate rice was with cinnamon and sugar as a hot breakfast cereal. When he moved down to the coast, he was astonished that people ate rice as part of a savory meal.

Nimble said...

I'm amused that your plain and simple pasta includes butter and bacon. I will concede that they're not in vast quantities.

It's not sick food, but oatmeal is a common wholesome breakfast for us. We ran out of brown sugar a while back. So I've taken to dressing the girls' oatmeal with white sugar and molasses to approximate. Then their grandmother sprinkled cinnamon on their oatmeal as well. So now we have three condiments plus milk to add. It's starting to feel like this simple breakfast is getting complicated.

My husband, native Texan, also insists on cinnamon toast made in the oven as comfort food. It makes the house smell wonderful. But when I want toast I want it Now, so I'm stuck with the toaster.

Kate said...

So sorry to hear that you were out of sorts. It SUCKS to be ill; however, lingering in bed with tea and toast is truly a restorative and healing plan.
Fortunately, my husband is on his best behavior when I am down for the count. He coddles me and brings me pretty white bowls of Cream of Wheat. Dry toast on the side, quartered.
When I was growing up, my mom believed that a Taco Bell bean burrito with extra red sauce was appropriate first food following a
vomiting episode. As weird as this sounds, I remember it working. That and Coke syrup.
Hope you're feeling better soon!
I have never made cinnamon toast in the manner that you described. Always toasted first, then buttered, then cinnamon-ized. Your version sounds magnificent!

Bee said...

Thanks for the tips . . . I think that I'm okay, but I'm going to get a comprehensive physical soon. I've just always had the blood sugar thing . . . when I have to eat NOW.

I was going to go to Oxford today; and I'm so glad that I didn't! The weather was NOT nice. Running errands (with a car) was bad enough.

I'm going to need some details about that soup! BTW, do you make cinnamon toast for your kids? As a special treat, of course!

Wouldn't it be heavenly to have someone to make risotto for our poorly selves? Your chicken and wild rice soup also sounds divinely homely.

BTW, I remember my mom making homemade vanilla pudding for me . . . and I know that is one of your favorite things. I would make it for my kids, but they just don't love it like I do.

I "make" that for my youngest daughter (with a bite or two for the cook, of course) when we have leftover rice. Really, you've got to have white rice for that treat.

I've never heard that either!

I know that it defies health logic, but I maintain that bacon is one of the ultimate comfort foods -- and therefore good for you.
Oatmeal (or porridge, to the English folk) is a comforting food -- but I only like it in winter. Like your girls, I tend to dress it up as much as possible. I would add raisins and pecans or walnuts to the mix.

It makes me happy that Nod likes cinnamon toast!

At first I was a little concerned about the bean burrito thing, but then I remember how a bean and cheese taco (soft) WAS my very favorite food in college for sorting out late-nights and hang-overs.
Please try the cinnamon toast "my" way. You will LOVE it.

Barrie said...

So glad you could play hooky. My children love cinnamon toast.

Do you ever cut your toast up into soldiers? that brings back childhood memories for me.

Hope you're feeling better.

Cindy said...

Oh yes. Only white rice for rice, milk and cinnamon. I meant that I don't make white rice too often anymore so I don't get that special treat. I'll have to start making white rice again though, when my daughter is old enough to have it.

Anne said...

I don't know if you saw, Bee, but yesterday afternoon I posted a reply to your brunch query. Hope it's not too late!

JaneyV said...

Bee - you poor sausage, I hope the lurgi has left you now. The weather recently's been shocking (now you know why the English are obsessed with it - it dominates your life. In Ireland it's easier because we expect it to be wet!). I'm all for hooky! I'm a firm believer in the twilight time between opening your eyes and feeling like getting out of bed. In my house that's Mama Time. Thank goodness I have a Hubby who understands how much better life is for all if I get it!

Your yummy cinnamon toast recipe reminds me of my childhood too although I think I was a bit heavy with the sugar (It's nice with thin slivers of apple too). Baked potato is one of my faves especially with grated cheddar! Yum! But I'm a soup kid when I'm not well - veg or chicken - no cream.

The Hubby will cook if I'm ill - he's a wonder really - but I'm a believer in using good quality ready-mades. My idea of carbonara involves opening a carton of Waitrose Carbonara Sauce adding it to lean fried back bacon then dumping the cooked (al dente) spaghetti on top, swooshing it about and serving (takes about 12 minutes). Not as light as yours, I grant you, but really really easy!

Be well Honey!

Lucy said...

Poor Bee, and fancy doing the ironing, that seems above and beyond!

Fortunately, I am rarely ill, which is just as well as Tom doesn't really 'do' me being ill. Once years ago when I was recovering from the worst gastro-bug ever I really fancied Fray Bentos steak and kidney pudding! I was at home from uni so my mum was able to oblige.

I didn't know about cinnamon toast until I visited my American aunty, and ate loads of it, but not done in the oven, which sounds heavenly.

I've not seen the original of Sabrina, my film book gives it 5 stars and raves and raves. But we watched the remake recently, which was rather nice, not least because it had Harrison Ford, for whom we both have a soft spot, so a chick flick with him in is a happy evening's viewing at our house!

I thought carbonara had eggs in?

Hope you're better now.

herhimnbryn said...

GWS :)

Bee said...

I wish that I liked brown rice more . . . but it's just so earnest and dull.


I don't know why, but I love being called a poor sausage! (Maybe it's because sausages are such great comfort food. And yes, the weather has been shockingly un-summerlike recently.)

I've seen the Sabrina remake too, and somehow Harrison Ford makes the elder Larrabie seem a lot sexier and twinklier than Bogart does.

You're right, the carbonara usually calls for some raw egg to coat the hot pasta . . . and sometimes I do make it that way . . . but the other night I couldn't be bothered.

Thanks! I'm better now; just tired.

Bitty said...

Bee, I find that when I've had a great deal to do, things I simply can't duck, and am being carried along simply by the absolute demands of being here and doing that, go, go, go!, and when I finally get to stop, I get sick.

Perhaps that's what happened to you, because you've certainly been on the go! My theory is that the immune system carries us as long as it can, and when we crash, it does, too.

No science there. Just years of observation.

I don't think I have any sick-day comfort foods. If I don't feel like eating, I don't eat. And if I do, I eat. But I'm up for popcorn as comfort under any circumstances.

One tasty way to cook brown rice, for those who are not vegetarians, is in chicken broth instead of water. I usually use the canned stuff. One can doesn't quite cover the 2 cups needed for a cup of rice, but it almost does. I make up the difference with water. Don't think of it as rice. (Think of it as a different food entirely!)

When I met my ex and started eating his mother's cooking, she "seasoned" white rice with sugar -- for the dinner table. I could never warm up to that. She's of German descent. I have no idea if that is a German tradition...?

Nimble said...

Is there anything better than talking about food? I must add one more comment -- about brown rice. I have discovered short grain brown rice which has a sweeter and more tender bite to it than long grain brown rice. I buy it from the bin at the health foodie store. It's as tasty to me as white. My MIL also introduced me to Uncle Ben's quick cook brown rice. It's less exciting tastewise but you can't beat it for fast. A big bowl of sticky rice makes me very happy.

Kristen In London said...

Dear Bee, I must tell you that my dear daughter was, for Halloween, the ultimate Audrey Hepburn heroine: Holly Golightly! From Breakfast at Tiffany's, of course... if I knew how to post a photo here I would, but it's on my penultimate blog post: she looked gorgeous!

Comfort food while sick: a roasted chicken whose bones are simmered in water for ages... simple, simple broth.