Classic ‘go-to’ nutrition for the sick
“I don’t feel good. I don’t want t-h-a-a-t. Don’t we have something e-l-s-e?”
“Wid a cod in de node I can’t taste anyding, anyway.”
“My tummy feels funny.”
We were told to feed a cold and starve a fever. Or is it starve a cold and feed a fever? My family always preferred the one that included grilled cheese and tomato soup no matter what the malady. Here are a few suggestions for feeding someone who feels less than super.
There have been strong opinions about what to feed an ill loved one for centuries. Mrs. Isabella Beeton wrote about it in The Book of Household Management, which was published in London in 1861:
- “For invalids, never make a large quantity of one thing, as they seldom require much at a time; and it is desirable that variety be provided for them.”
- “As milk is an important article of food for the sick, in warm weather let it be kept on ice to prevent its turning sour.”
- “In sending dishes or preparations up to invalids, let everything look as tempting as possible.”
While these are good ideas, some of her dishes for the sick may sound odd to us now – barley water, beef tea (three varieties), baked or stewed calf’s foot, nutritious coffee, eel broth, egg wine, gruel, nourishing lemonade, stewed rabbits in milk, rice milk, and toast–and–water.
How could you not just jump out of bed, healthy again, after a good helping of “Toast Sandwiches”?
The ingredients as outlined in the book: “Thin cold toast, thin slices of bread-and-butter, pepper and salt to taste.” The toast goes between the bread with salt and pepper for interest. Beeton elaborated that “this sandwich may be varied by adding a little pulled meat, or very fine slices of cold meat, to the toast, and in any of these forms will be found very tempting to the appetite of an invalid.”
Just think how soon they would have felt better with a trusty bowl of canned chicken noodle soup. It’s hard to go wrong with chicken soup and it’s even better when you make it at home because you know exactly what goes in to it.
Start with a chicken or chicken parts. Remember, the older the chicken the better the soup. If you can’t get a feisty old bird then go for boney bits – backs and necks are good, with some thighs. If you can get only a fryer don’t include the white meat when you simmer the soup. Add some more a few minutes before serving if the patient has the appetite for it.
Put the chicken in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and let cook 30 minutes. While it simmers skim off anything that comes to the top.
After 30 minutes, add 1 coarsely chopped onion, 1 coarsely chopped carrot, 1 coarsely chopped celery stalk with leaves, any herbs you like. (Personally, I like more vegetables). Simmer, uncovered for 3 hours, adding water as needed to cover. Strain and let cool. Refrigerate. Remove fat when cold.
The solids have had all of the flavor cooked out of them so the best thing to do is pitch them. Don’t even think of the dog because cooked chicken bones are brittle. Reheat what you need and add cubed chicken and noodles then.
Ginger tea is super for a queasy stomach. Ginger ale used to work, but that’s when it was made with real ginger. Shred a few slices of fresh ginger (leave the peel on) and steep in hot water for 10 minutes. Dilute and add honey until it suits the patient.
A cold will stuff up your nose, and you can’t really taste if you can’t smell. To make a grilled cheese sandwich more interesting for a teenager or adult add grated Parmesan or Romano cheese or some crumbles of blue, Stilton or feta.
Sore throats are often prime candidates for ice cream, in spite of suggestions that milk products are not good for colds and sore throats. If you want to avoid milk, try sherbets. Mashed potatoes go down easy, so do scrambled eggs. Porridge with honey can be a winner, too. Italian friends of mine always had watery, mushy rice. It never did much for me.
No matter the malady or the patient, whatever goes down is the right thing to serve.
story by TRENT ROWE, Food Editor