Recently I was viciously and mercilessly assaulted by the common cold. Anyone who has ever suffered this type of assault (and who hasn't) knows that the medical establishment will give you no hope of relief and no of hope for a cure. You are literally abandoned. Friends and family will offer sympathy and advice over the telephone but won't come near you for fear of contamination. You are on your own with your runny, red and sore nose, your burning raspy throat, your weeping swollen eyes, your aching muscles, your sneezing and coughing, your hot and cold chills.
And so, I give you this advice: CALL YOUR GRANDMOTHER! And if you don't have one handy, you can use mine.
The first thing my Grandmother advises is to sit down, make a hot cup of tea while you take inventory of your provisions and write a list of your needs. My Grandmother tackles every problem with a cup of hot tea first.
You need hot chicken soup by the tub full (check the following recipe to make certain you have what you need on hand to make the soup). You need tea bags by the lot. You need a good sized clove of garlic, make that two so you don't need to run out to the store again. You need rum: either dark rum or light rum---or what the heck, get both--you're sick! You need Clover Honey. You need lemons. You need Cayenne Pepper. You need Apple Cider Vinegar. You need tissues to blow your nose (not that cheap box, you need the most expensive tissues you can find so they will be big and soft and fluffy and kind to your poor runny nose). You need a bottle of Aspirin or Tylenol. You need a Mentholated Rub (Vicks). And finally, you need a hot water bottle, a warm fleecy blanket and big loose comfortable pajamas.
You need to turn off the telephone and put the television remote control where you can easily find it.
Now then, take your list of needs and put on your oldest, roomiest and most comfortable running outfit and your big old navy pea coat, put a kerchief on your head and go to the nearest store with your list. Pray that no one on the street recognizes you in your get up and try not to breath, sneeze or cough on anyone you meet.
Once home with your provisions and before you lay down take your Aspirin or Tylenol as directed on the bottle and start your chicken soup as follows (by the way, this is a very quick and easy chicken soup recipe--remember, you're sick and can't deal with anything that's complicated):
1. 2 chicken breasts halves (skinless) . Cube these into small or medium size pieces.
2. 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
3. 1 Large Celery Rib (chopped)
4. 2 Large Carrots (sliced thin)
5. 1 Clove Garlic (minced)
6. 3 Cans Low Salt Chicken Broth
7. 1 Large Onion (chopped)
8. 1 (16oz. Bag) of Frozen Mixed Veggies (actually this is optional)
9. Add Salt and Pepper to taste.
OK now, Heat the Olive Oil in a Large Dutch Oven on top of the stove. Add the chicken cubes and sauté until they are no longer pink looking. Add the chopped celery rib, the chopped onion, the minced garlic, the Bag of Frozen Mixed Veggies (if you want these) and the 3 cans of Chicken Broth.
Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. When you feel stronger, you may want to boil some noodles and put these into the soup too.
I can do the preparation for this soup in about 5 minutes, which is an important consideration when you're head, is throbbing and you can't think straight. This recipe makes enough for about 8 to 10 servings (so buy enough stuff to make it again if necessary).
With the soup on you can change into your p.j.'s.
Now slather yourself with a mentholated rub (such as Vicks). Make sure you're wearing cotton pajamas because this is not only smelly it's also sticky. However on the plus side of this, you may be able to get one nostril opened so that you can breathe which is a very good sign.
Now put the tea kettle on and brew yourself a large pot of hot tea. You will be drinking tons. This tea brewing ceremony is important and it is a ritual that must be done just right. My Irish grandmother is very particular about brewing tea and so I offer you the following directions. You must start making your tea with cold water. Pour enough water into the kettle for at least one cup of tea. While waiting for the water to boil, warm your tea cup with hot water (from the tap is OK). You must never put the boiling water into a cold tea cup (don't ask me why, check with my grandmother--this is her rule). Use one tea bag for each cup of tea you brew. Pour the boiling water into the pre-heated tea cup and let it steep for about three to five minutes depending on your preference for weak or strong tasting tea. Now add cream and sugar to taste and sip your tea slowly letting the warmth of the tea wash over you like a soft warm blanket. (Some people prefer only sugar and lemon in their tea, but my grandmother says this isn't the Irish way but do what your prefer).
Incidentally, in my house growing up, all calamities were met with a cup of hot tea so you should keep this recipe handy for any and all emergencies as for example, your toilet is plugged up and you can't find the plunger, the school just called and told you that your kid is on probation for sneaking a peek into the girls' locker room, you forgot to pay your electric bill and service is being cut, or your beautiful college aged daughter has run off with that bum she's been dating--you get the idea.
Finally you must deal with your sore throat and cough and grandmother's fail proof cough syrup combines the juice of a lemon, a couple teaspoons of honey, cayenne pepper and water. Specifically you will need a 6 oz. Glass of warm water to which you will add 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 3 Tablespoons of Clover Honey, and 1 Teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar. You will gargle with this about once every 2 to 3 hours until your sore throat feels better and your cough starts to subside. Incidentally, a couple of teaspoons of honey taken straight and swallowed helps to ease a cough and sore throat too.
Now go to bed (remember to fill your hot water bottle and place it at your feet). Keep your head elevated on pillows. Turn the television on for the monotony of it and go to sleep. Sleep will be easy since you will be aided in this by your elevated temperature and by the fact that since you cannot breath, you are oxygen deprived.
When you start coughing again (and you will since grandma's elixir will wear off in an hour or so) get up and ladle yourself some chicken soup and climb back into bed. The chicken soup must be eaten regularly throughout the day at intervals of two to three hours. The honey and apple cider mixture can be taken as necessary (as when your cough becomes a nuisance and you must get some relief or every two to three hours). Continue to take your Aspirin or Tylenol as directed on the bottle. Oh, and keep that hot water bottle at your feet hot.
In the evening, and you will do this every evening while you are in recovery, you will take a Hot Toddy to help you sleep and, if you make it right, to help you forget your misery. (Actually, you can make this Toddy whenever you feel like it, after all, you're an adult and you're sick). In our house, we brew the following Toddy: 2 to 3 oz. of light or dark rum (or more, remember you're sick and just want to get a good night's sleep), 1and a half teaspoons of sugar, 2 whole cloves of garlic, 1 slice of lemon and 6 to 8oz. of boiling water. Place a spoon in a heavy old fashion glass (or use a heat proof mug) to prevent cracking the glass when making the Toddy. Add the rum, lemon slice, sugar and garlic cloves and fill the glass/mug with the boiling water. Stir and drink and let the warmth of the drink relax you and ease away your troubles. By the way, if you want a Hot Buttered Toddy, just add 1 Tablespoon of Butter to the glass or mug before you add the boiling water. This is really soothing when your throat is aching. (The Toddy takes about 2 to 3 minutes to prepare and to make---I like to drink it slowly to savor its warmth).
Like the tea, the Hot Toddy can also be taken in any and all emergencies as when, for example, your movie pick does not get an Oscar nomination, you forgot to pick up the laundry and life's problems are just too much to bear.
You will follow the routine outlined above until you feel better (at least three days) and then you may taper off the chicken soup, the mentholated rub, the hot water bottle and the cough syrup, the Aspirin or Tylenol.
You should keep the tea and the Hot Toddy ingredients near by for the next time life slaps you down.