Thursday, March 28, 2013

When you’re too sick to want to cook, but too hungry not to eat…

The past few days, I’ve been feeling pretty punk. I might get one cold a year, but I’m currently laid low by my second, and I can’t remember the last time that’s happened.

What’s the saying? Starve a cold and feed a fever? Or is it the other way around? I can never remember, but all I can tell you is I really don’t feel like doing any cooking at the moment. Speaking of which, since I’m the one who’s in the kitchen more often than not, I’d better come up with a plan, or come dinnertime, there’s going to be a very cranky female in the house – and I’m not talking about our cat, Abbynormal who is always cranky.

But that’s another story.

Right now it’s lunchtime and I only have to fend for myself. What is needed is a good big dose of comfort food, but something that doesn’t take a lot of work and time to prepare.

My Aunt Esther Hoeldtke (actually, my mom’s cousin) lived in Buffalo. She was a grade school principal and a really wonderful lady. She lived most of her life alone due to the fact that her betrothed was killed in Europe during the Second World War. She always struck me as somewhat sad long before I was old enough to know what the cause was. Regardless, it was always fun when we went to Buffalo – where my mother was born and grew up – because we’d inevitably see Aunt Esther. I liked her a lot and have very fond memories of those visits.

Years went by, I wound up in Montreal to finish my university studies at McGill, and eventually Vicki and I moved on to Toronto. That was awfully near Buffalo. As it turned out, when our first son was very young, we decided to fly home for Christmas out of Buffalo to save some money. To make the trip easy, it was best for us to get to Buffalo the night before and catch a plane out first thing in the morning. I called Aunt Esther to see if she could put up three traveling Canadians. She came through in spades. We’d get dinner, a place to leave our car for free – and she’d drive us to the airport! To say the least, we were delighted by this news.

Okay, this was supposed to be a post about feeling ill and comfort food. Where the heck is Blechta going with this? Bear with me. The answer is just around the corner.

It being December and the location being Buffalo (not to mention the Niagara Peninsula to pass through), of course a huge snow squall nailed us when we’d nearly gotten to the border. Going was glacial as we crawled through near white-out conditions to get to Aunt Esther’s in Williamsville (a western suburb of Buffalo).

By the time we pulled up in front of her house, we were inexcusably late, famished and completely ready to be taken care of. Once we’d gotten our luggage up into the bedroom, and Karel fed and changed, we went downstairs wondering what smelled so darned good. Aunt Esther’s brother, my Uncle Ernest and his wife Katherine had arrived – and that was a pleasant surprise.

Our savior came out of the kitchen with a tray bearing steaming mugs. Auntie had whipped this up when she saw how whipped we were, and I will always associate the smell of this very simple recipe as the beginning of feeling a whole lot better. That night, by the time we finished our mugs, we were ready to take on the world – or at least the beef pot roast and vegetables.

The components are completely mass-produced, and probably not all that wonderful nutritionally, but they’re warming, taste and smell great, so I’m going to whip some up and in a few minutes I’ll be sitting in my favorite chair in the living room, reading the novel I currently have going, and probably feeling a whole lot better – if only psychologically. The origin is probably one of those newspaper filler-things or the label of a soup can, but who cares? You’re sick!

Next time you’re feeling under the weather and don’t feel a whit like cooking, try this simple remedy for misery. Maybe you’ll start to feel better, too. At the very least, you’ll be nice and warmed, and that’s sometimes nearly as good.

By the way, we finished up the evening with me thumping out Christmas carols on Aunt Esther’s piano, accompanying everyone’s best attempts at singing.

Aunt Esther’s Remedy
Serves 3-4

1 10-oz can Campbell’s lo-sodium beef broth
20 oz of Mott’s Tomato Cocktail (Don’t use V8 or tomato juice. It just won’t cut it.)
a small squeeze of lemon juice. No more than 1/2 tsp.
freshly ground black pepper

1. In a saucepan, mix the broth with an extra can of water, according to the directions on the can.

2. Add the tomato cocktail. Heat to boiling. Just before serving, add the lemon juice and a grinding of pepper. And that’s it!

3. Take a sip and begin to feel a whole lot better.

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