Monday, August 03, 2009

Cooking for invalids


‘A couple of pieces of toast & some sweet tea please’ was all she asked for. Her cheeks were blushed; her breath stale & her face puffy & pale. An hour later the tea had been sipped but the toast lay uneaten, the butter congealed at its edges where as usual I had spread it too thickly. She was snoring softly on her side, taken again by the drowsiness bought on by this persistent lurgy which has scythed down her classmates & countless others in the town.
Nothing is as sad or as worrisome as your own sick child.
The other two have had it & gotten over it, each suffering their own bouts to varying degrees & all were robbed of their usually voracious appetites. Things are grim when some hot buttered toast can’t pep you up.
I remember as a kid my Mum would give me pea & ham soup, from a tin with thick slices of buttered toast when I was crook. I have always equated this soup with being ill funnily enough & has actually precluded me from putting it on the menu because of this reason.
Many people I know will take soup only when they ill. It’s easy to understand why. It goes down easily, it’s tasty & it is often simple. Often people like a clear soup, like a broth, perhaps that’s the reason why chicken noodle soup has been lauded for its medicinal properties, the old Jewish penicillin as they say. Many cultures see soup as indeed that, a medicine. Not unlike a Tisane is to a tea, a hot water extraction of herbs, spices & blooms, delicate & fragrant. Perhaps beef ‘tea’ a clear concentrated consomm√©, is the obvious crossover from food to medicine?
Though I like soups, they don’t restore me like other foods do when I am crook. When ill I would often go down to Victoria St or Little Burke St for some fragrant herby Viet dishes or some highly spiced Chinese food, the chillies, garlic & ginger making mockery of my condition, cajoling my taste buds & sweating the toxins from my pores. These clean true flavours would purge me or at least I felt they did. I once consulted a Chinese doctor who said I had ‘heat on the lung’ which meant I was an overly hot person & must avoid foods which generate it, like garlic onion & chillie, curious as felt they helped me get over the cold!
I often shake my head with the realization that some people only see food for its calorific content or its medical value, like not eating sugars or eating lean red meat but its often to the detriment of the sensual pleasure food can bring. Surely releasing those endorphins might be just as important to ones well being than a specifically aimed medicinal food item? While I agree some foods have proven medicinal properties, I’m uncomfortable about planning meals around them for this purpose alone. Just to contradict myself though, I have also realized that when I am ill, I respond better to spicy foods rather than bland stuff. I suppose the difference here is that I’m only prepared to take my medicine when I’m sick, not to take it to prevent me from being sick-does that make sense?
This dish from Victor could easily become the dish that I ask for when I get crook, in fact when she is able stomach more food, I’ll let her try it as well.

18 comments:

Victor said...

Steve - so sad to hear about your little girl. Which one?

When I am very sick with a cold, I have to make myself either a minced pork or fish congee, with a bit of finely shredded ginger (good for cold). I will use the chicken stock (like the one in my recipe) with 1/2 cup of rice, slow cooked until the rice has broken down to a slightly thick congee, add chunk of filleted blue eye trevalla (or finely shredded chicken pieces from the poached chicken), a bit of salt, white pepper, light soy sauce (just a drizzle), finely shredded ginger. A small bowl at a time spread over a couple of hours may do the trick.

Also another trick is a slow brewed slices of ginger with good honey for the cold.

Wolfie! said...

Usually when just starting to feel better, I can usually down savoys with butter and vegemite on them... and some tea.

Vegemite on Savoys seemed to be the thing our family went for first.

Wolfie!

stickyfingers said...

Toast or Arnotts Thin Captain water crackers with butter was exactly what my childhood palate yearned for when I was sick.

Now as I lie in bed with a lurgy that has left me too weak to cook I hanker for congee and pho. Perhaps I can send Mr Sticki out to get some of the latter, and perhaps Mum could bring over her congee & Chinese doughnuts?

Michelle said...

Sorry to hear your little one is still sick - it's such a worry when they aren't well.

Toast with butter is a nostalgic fave, but a Tom Yum is what I crave more often these days. Though I'm sure a bowl of Victor's chicken would be a great fix too...

steve said...

Hi Vic-My eldest.
I like the idea of congee but texturaly it dosn't appeal to me though I dont deny its restorative qualities. Meanwhile I love the ginger idea. My old man chomps ginger all the time & swears by it.

G'day Wolfie & welcome-Yep the triple whammy of salt, Savoys, butter, vegemite is sure to make anyone feel better.

Hi Sticky, nice to hear from you again-Do you still keep the crackers in the cupboard for said occasion? Those Chinese doughnuts sound intriguing, I've never heard of them before but then again I'm a white-bread Gway-Lo(is that how you spell it!?)

Hi Michelle, good to hear from you also-I'm with you here. Wouldn't it be great if we could get some authentic Asian food here in the Huon? Victor are you listening?

Victor said...

Steve - yes, I am listening. I should have bought that Cafe Mojo (Oh, I meant Moto) in Huonville. It is small and perfect for an Asian style cafe/takeaway. But my other half is not interested and it is hard to find good staff locally in the area. I still kept all my Nyonya dining set, tables and chairs from my "Melaka" days.

Sticky - I wonder your mum's Chinese doughnut is the "Eu Char Kwai" ie the long greasy yummy crisp salty dough that we use to dip in a strong black coffee (for breakfast in Penang) or sliced thinly then eat with the ocngee.

Rita said...

Victor - I'm here, ready and willing to slave in your Asian cafe on the site of Cafe Moto! Please do it!

steve said...

But dont pay the $290000 asking price-way over valued in my opinion. Also remember that parking IS a big issue with that site

Victor said...

Thanks, Rita.

Steve - I know. It is bloody expansive. It doesn't have a proper commercial kitchen. I sold mine in Franklin, freehold, proper commercial kitchen, 4 dining rooms, plus a completely renovated 1 bedroom attached studio and a much bigger building, with 2 outbuildings. Cafe Moto is dreaming, and so is the Fish Punt across Grand Hotel. Anyway, nice to be thinking about it and thanks for the encouragement. I can keep dreaming at the moment.

Victor said...

Oh, no...please don't tempt me, Rita. Thanks, thanks, thanks.

stickyfingers said...

Yes Victor, they are known to me as "Yow ja gwei" in Cantonese, though I am also a lover of "haam jeen beng" too, sesame garnished doughnuts.

Steve, Our family use masterstock and crumbled tofu skin in our congee which makes it rich and creamy like a savoury porridge, and we like to throw in a roast duck carcass for good measure during the slow cooking. Then comes the other goodies at the end - whether seafood or meat, meat/fishballs etc - and garnished with peanuts, spring onion, pork floss and a little soy or fish sauce; whole or sliced doughnut on the side.

I have a feeling it is influenced by my grandmother's childhood in Vietnam, where they still practice very ancient Chinese ways and recipes. I've been promising to post the recipe for pigs trotters in black vinegar but feel obliged to do our family's congee & doughnuts first. I have so many Hawker food stories from our holiday to write first though...

Rita said...

Cafe Victor! Cafe Victor!

Victor said...

Rita - LOL. Okay. You will be the first to know.

Sticky - that really brings back my childhood memory esp the "haam jeen beng". I am glad I don't crave for them anymore. They can't be healthy esp for people with high cholestral and diabetes.

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

A light fresh bowl of Jewish Pennicillin usually does the trick.
With dumplings if its serious.

ut si said...

My wee girl is poorly too...I find a nip of Islay malt helps me through it.

steve said...

Hi George-Nice to hear from you & why dosn't your comment surprise me!
Hello Colette-Also nice to hear from you. Are you getting some time out? Dont run yourself down & all that, maybe two nips!

ut si said...

Hope your bairn is much repaired. Mine was despatched to her non-custodial. I think I'm the only member of this family (including the halves & steps) who's managed thus far not to succumb to disease or disorder.
Closing for 2 days soon for some restoration work on the church...luvly customer put her Manolos through my 170 year old oak floor boards. Will get down to Randalls & call by the RVL. x

steve said...

Ho Colette, she's on the mend thanks. Touch wood you dont fall prey also after that admission of being the only one not to.
If that customer can afford those shoes then maybe she can pay for reno's? Say g'day when you coem through