I am sick. It’s been lingering for the past few days, but yesterday I fully succumbed to it. I think it’s just a cold, but my throat hurts and I have a dry nagging cough. Ever since I felt the first tickle in my throat last Friday, I’ve fed myself with cures to the common cold from many different cultures, hoping one of them would work.
My first try was with congee. I don’t know if congee is supposed to cure a cold, but have often heard that it’s given to weak or old people to help warm them. I need no convincing to have congee, but whenever I feel even the slightest symptom of a cold coming on, I immediately make my way to the Congee Noodle House. Of course, I ordered the minced pork and fresh oyster congee and I loaded it with chili oil. It was good enough to warm me up for the day, but the cold still lingered.
My next try was to try the Rappaport cure, with a bowl of Matzo ball soup. I loved matzo ball soup ever since the first time I tried it, which was probably at the Shiffman’s Passover dinner over 10 years ago. Matzo, matzah, matzoh… no matter how you spell it, it usually means down home, good for the soul goodness. Ben said when he was a kid and got sick, his dad would go out and get him a bowl of matzo ball soup. I love fluffy matzo balls in a great chicken broth, but I don’t know where to find that combo in the city, (my ideal would be to use Kaplans balls with Solly’s soup).
So I tried my hand at making them myself, (I definitely had more energy this day to actually be cooking). I couldn’t find a matzo ball soup mix (which was suggested by my food guru friend Ethan), so I had to try to make them from scratch. I made a wonderful broth with chicken stock boosted with a few chicken legs, carrots, leeks and celery. I did a bit of research on how to make the matzo balls light and fluffy, and minus the schmaltz, I followed them all to a T. Unfortunately, I have to report that my first attempt at making fluffy matzo balls fell a bit short. All but 1 were on the dense-side and had I not had the 1 perfect light and fluffy ball, I would have called my attempt a failure, (although if you like dense matzo balls then these would have been a success as they tasted good!). Don’t know if it was the dense matzo balls, or what but this chicken soup was not good enough to cure my cold.
Last night for dinner, I tried to go with another Chinese cure, hot and sour soup. My favorite in the city is from the Grandview Restaurant. Debbie’s hot and sour soup is the best, although it varies in taste, texture and ingredients depending on who’s in the kitchen. Part of the reason why I like ordering it so much is that it’s always a surprise as to what you’re going to get. Sometimes it’s thick, other times it’s thinner. Sometimes you get peas, other times shrimp. Whatever version it is though, the bowl is always soul satisfying. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to stop the cold from overtaking my whole body today.
I’ve set myself up for a day on the couch and will force myself to stay here and make myself better. I found the entire series of the West Wing, which I’m so happy to have started again, the kitchen is stocked with apple juice and baby cookies, (which is what I crave when I get sick). I am bringing out the big guns today for lunch and calling back to what I know best, to make me better.
Okayu is Japanese rice porridge. It’s similar to congee, but it’s made with Japanese rice. I have no idea how congee is made, so I’m not sure what the other differences are. All I know is that when I was young, this is what my mom made for me when I got sick, and it’s what I crave most when I get REALLY sick. I cheat a bit and use flavouring from a package, but the result tastes just like how mom used to make it.
I’m not going to say that the Japanese cure for a cold is the reason why I’m feeling better right now, but it does seem to be the one that works best for me. I am happy to report that I’m feeling a bit better now… just in time to celebrate the holidays!