Remedial eats and drinks

When it comes to the common cold, we don’t like to do things by halves here in England.

Case and point: we surround ourselves with tissues and swaddle in thick blankets with a heavy dose of self-pity. As December nears, the winter nights become longer and colder, and thus some of us wait for the inevitable drip on the end of the nose. Of course, none of us want to be ill; there’s nothing more annoying than drinking Berocca by the dozen and dosing off on a Lemsip high, but I do think there can be perks – yes, really – to a touch of the sniffles.

Let me explain why. An acquaintance recently shared a cold remedy with me – it originated in Jamaica, apparently. The cure consists of white rum, lime juice and honey, warmed up and knocked back in one. What could be better, when feeling congested and miserable on a frosty grey day, than prescribing yourself a little shot of warm Jamaican sun to remedy a cold?

I’ve, on numerous occasions, made myself a cup of hot toddy to ease a sore throat, but rum is a first for me. Usually it’s created with Brandy or Whisky, made warm and served with honey, lemon or spices. When I make the Jamaican version, it’s just as good as it sounds, though I have a feeling that few would be prepared to swap it for their own closely guarded recipe. (But I urge you to give it a try.)

After my rum toddy experience, I was inspired to explore the idea of food and drink as a remedy. A delicious drink or a hearty meal has to be more appealing than popping a pill for most of us. I then found out that ginger contains antiviral compounds, garlic is a natural antibiotic and honey too possesses antibacterial properties…and the list goes on. It seems no coincidence that many of our winter treats contain cinnamon and cloves, both of which are used to ward of the lurgy.

And few can argue with the fact that a bowl of chicken soup is a great way to help treat a cold. Everyone has their own version: it can be creamy and rich or made with noodles; spicy, fresh or perhaps even with slices of chorizo here and there. Every culture appears to have something to contribute to this bowl of goodness. I once had a Spanish housemate who very generously plied me with a bowl of her mother’s recipe of Caldo each night to help me get better; it was delicious to the point where I almost willed the cold to keep going.

So when I notice a cold coming on, I try and recreate a hot and sour chicken noodle soup that I had and loved in Thailand. As I cook this, I am conscious of using as many health-boosting ingredients as possible. I add garlic, ginger, chilli and lime leaves to flavour the broth, followed by fine vermicelli noodles to bring bite. At the end, a splash of fish sauce and a generous squeeze of fresh lime do well to make it both salty and sour. Simply breathing in the aroma of this soup clears my sinuses and revives the spirit. As far as I’m concerned, this is the best cure for a cold there is (I’ll save the hot toddy for later as an invalid’s nightcap).

Previously published in Crumbs Magazine online journal


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