Go hang yourself, you old M.D.! You shall not sneer at me. Pick up your hat and stethoscope, Go wash your mouth with laundry soap; I contemplate a joy exquisite, I’m not paying you for your visit. I did not call you to be told, My malady is a common cold.
By pounding brow and swollen lip;
By fever’s hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes
That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!
-Ogden Nash (“Common Cold“)
There’s something about having a cold that makes me long to sit around in a pair of thick, fuzzy socks watching romantic comedies and sipping tea. Colds are miserable; when you’re in the throes of sniffling and gradually watching your nose transform from pale and soft to red and chafed, you just can’t help but want the company of happy, beautiful people. Personally, at moments like these, I long for a young Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts to keep me company; Hugh Grant will also do, as well as any iconic ’80s movie. If I’m lucky (and feeling practical), chicken soup will also make a timely appearance in this fantasy.
On Tuesday, after hours of sitting around feeling sorry for myself–and, in the process, enjoying the latest Bon Appetit, several fascinating articles in The New Yorker (particularly the Bitcoin piece and the Taylor Swift expose) and reading (and bookmarking) too many food blog recipes (compound butter! pumpkin and feta muffins! cocoa buttermilk cake!) and the Greek cookbook the Greek brought for me on his recent travels (too many recipes, too little time), I finally got down to the business of feeding my soup-starved body. Tyler Florence, who was on my mind because of his recipe for Beet Cake that I’m dying to try, was my muse. I didn’t have a chicken, but I did have chicken stock. And though his recipe didn’t call for them, I also had toasted sesame oil, spinach and dill. It seemed to be a good soup, although, truth be told, I could barely taste it. At least it made me feel better…even if just a little.
On Wednesday, post-chicken soup and a good night’s sleep (as well as a paper-grading free evening–it will do wonders for your health!), I was feeling better. I could even taste again. Clearly, this meant that all the ooohing and aaaahing I had done over at 101 Cookbooks the day before could be put to good use in my kitchen. The Greek and I went to Berkeley Bowl, where we bought a few essential ingredients for the meal: Baked Pasta Casserole. Heidi’s recipe didn’t call for tomatoes of any kind, but I decided both cherry and sun-dried tomatoes would work well with mozzarella (I used one that was smoked and loved the flavor), spinach, onions and garlic. My instincts did not fail me. More importantly, with that much onion and garlic my ability to taste seemed to have been restored.
This, however, was but a temporary victory on the part of my senses. Today passed in a tasteless blur–from my morning coffee and toast with peanut butter and honey to the apple I snacked on this afternoon. Let’s not even get me started about the lavender milk tea I ordered at the new tea place, Tea Fever, on Shattuck; I had to ask the Greek to sniff it and tell me if it was indeed lavender. I’m not kidding when I say that I genuinely couldn’t tell. My hope is that tomorrow will be a turning point….Otherwise, I’m going to have to make myself a rakomelo every night until my nasal passages clear and my sense of taste (and smell) return. The Greek made this after our Baked Pasta Casserole dinner and, even though it tasted good (honey, cloves and cinnamon + liquor; what’s not to like?), it burnt on the way down. Burnt so much that it even tingled. The only positive was that I could feel it burning–my senses were alive–and that, in and of itself, was a reason to keep on drinking. Plus, for anybody suffering from the common cold, a warm, soothing and honeyed drink is just what the doctor ordered.
Yields two glasses of good to the last drop (if you dare) rakomelo
3 shots grappa (raki or tsipouro)
2 Tbsp. honey (we used buckwheat honey)
1 cinnamon stick (or 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon)
2-3 whole cloves (or 1/4 tsp. ground cloves)
a splash or two of water to top things off
-Add all the ingredients to a small saucepan or to a briki (since I don’t have the latter, we used my old stainless steel milk frothing pitcher, which worked nicely.) and heat them until they are almost boiling.
-Stir to make sure that the honey has melted.
-Pour into glasses, top off with water (adjust to taste) and serve.
-Drink up and prepare to feel the tingle. Serve with dried fruit (raisins, prunes, currants).