Vanessa Chang
(A Glutton with Brains)


a glutton with brains

No Meme Immunity: Common Cold Remedies

Mae at rice and noodles tagged me a while back for this rather useful meme. It seems everyone has come down with some sort of infection, flu, cold, coodies, to shoot Kleenex stock through the roof. When it comes to comfort of the edible sort (Robitussin doesn't count), I wish I could say that I am a chicken-soup-from-scratch maker. But the sad reality is that the only times in my life that I have made chicken soup, I was perfectly healthy—the recipients usually being sick instead. And the effort, let alone time, involved to bung out one pot is preferably spent on laying down under the covers and not thinking about anything.

And I hesitate to call these remedies. I'm woefully lacking in the echinacea-popping preventative measures. And what I eat tends to console me in my pitiful snotty state rather then speed any sort of recovery. So, I'll call these my "comfort-ies." And at the top of the list...


1. A piping hot mug of chai made from scratch. Honey-butter toast from a half-eaten rustic loaf. Slices cut as thick as a pillow. After a round of toasting, I slather the toast with some Beurre St. Mere D'Isigny. Drizzle a little honey from hives just north of the city, enough so that the liquid oozes through the bread's pocks and crevices.

My best friend's mother, Pragna, always fasted for one religious reason or another. A spiritual and formidable woman, her existence depended on her Jain faith, the love of her family, and many cups of homemade chai. I never could bring myself to ask for her recipe—like other humans, she tended to be cranky when hungry—but I caught a glimpse of her chai-making ritual one day. This recipe is a cross-section with one I came across once on Leite's Culinaria.

A Potentially Bastardized But Brilliant Recipe for Chai
3 cardamom pods, smashed * 3 whole cloves * 3 whole black peppercorns * 5 whole white peppercorns * 1 teaspoon fennel seeds * 1 teaspoon coriander seeds * 1 1-inch cinnamon stick * 1 1-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled * 2 cups water * 2 tablespoons black tea * 1/2-1 cup milk * salt and honey to taste

Combine all the aromatics into a small saucepan with the water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the tea and cook for 5 minutes longer. Strain out all the chunky bits (though I leave the cinnamon and a cardamom pod or two for good measure) and add the desired amount of milk to the mixture. Bring to a simmer. Season with salt and as much honey as you'd like. Makes one generous mug and another for later. Use it as a dip for your honey-butter toast.

2. Citron Tea from the Korean Market
I used to hate two things when I got sick: 1.) The madre would make me gargle with salt water or 2.) Make me sip this "tea." As you can tell from the photo, the citron concoction resembles jam more than the other three-letter word. But even with silly childhood tastes, I've invested in a hefty jar. When I checked the new nutritional labels the Vitamin C listing came out as 0 percent. Citron, really? It isn't intensely sweet—I'd never substitute it for my beloved honey—but the slighty bitter citrus diluted in hot water is better alternative to TheraFlu. Especially good for when you're nauseous but cold and need something in your system before you pop another Tylenol.

3. Sullongtang. Beefy. Brothy. And loads of slurpy noodles. Of course, I don't make it for myself. It's much better when someone else makes it for you. (Thanks, Mommy.) A big bowlful perhaps with some spicy turnip kimchi fulfills the requirement to ingest something steaming hot. Be warned though, eating this will require alot of tissues.

4. Several wedges of juicy cocktail grapefruit.
These blonde grapefruits are deceptively sweet. Friends and co-workers will think you're sucking on lemons. And when your throat feels like a well-used cat scratching post, it's absolutely the best breakfast.

UncategorizedVanessa Chang