Here’s something I was wondering recently: Is it possible to drown in your own, how shall I put this delicately, snot? O.K., as gross as that sounds, if you are one of the gazillions who are suffering from the head cold or worse, flu that is going around, I bet you’ve asked yourself that very question. Between the sneezing and wheezing and coughing and blowing of snout more times than that poor little button deserves yet there’s still no end of gook in sight. Yes, folks, it’s that time of year — the cold and flu season. The annual reminder that despite how powerful and mighty we at the top of the food chain think we are, a teeny microscopic being and several hundred million relatives can reduce an otherwise healthy human to a wheezy, sneezey, snotty wretch. You think you’ve been spared, gotten through all those holiday parties and crowds with nary a sniffle, and then when you least expect it, SURPRISE!! Mr. Rhinovirus or worse, his sister Ms. Influenza invite their many many cousins to a party in your nose…and chest…and head.
Like many of you, these very unwelcomed guests recently visited me. I was actually quite surprised and more than a little pissed that I succumbed to the current plague too. Smugly I thought I’d taken all of the necessary precautions. I washed my hands like a happy little obsessive-compulsive germophobe, eliminating every possible villain. I armed every pocket with hand sanitizer and tried to avoid crowds (not an easy feat when you live in a city of millions). I treated the visibly infected in my life like lepers (sorry, you know I love you but it’s every woman for herself in sicky-avoidance-ville), and even beefed up on echinacea and vitamin C. But alas, all my prophylactic efforts proved useless. When those nasty buggers want you, you are like the poor slow-moving schlub closest to the zombie mob. You’re a goner.
So here I sit, looking oh-so attractive with a head the weight and density of a bowling ball, my honker red and threatening to exit my face if I blow it one more time, and a pile of Kleenex that just might take over the living room. The only good thing is my voice sounds like Kathleen Turner circa Body Heat. Unfortunately, I’m so repellant that the only use for it is to record a new voicemail message so future callers think I’m really hot.
At least I know from previous afflictions that at some point in the next day or so the snotty hoard will leave my body. So since I’m useless for anything else until then, I think I’ll just hunker down on the couch with some good old movies and some healing, soothing food. After all, it’s “feed a cold”, right?
When it comes to battling a bad head cold, my go-to menu follows the advice of doctors (and moms). Liquids, lots of them (a hot toddy couldn’t hurt), and for mealtime, soup. While chicken soup always factors into the mix, when I’ve had my fill and need a change, I make my Carrot Cumin Soup. Packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, this tasty healing elixir gets warmth from the addition of toasted cumin seeds. It’s terrific on its own with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream on top, or along side a therapeutic grilled cheese sandwich. I prescribe a bowl for lunch or dinner and repeat as needed. Nine out of 10 docs (and Bugs Bunny) agree — this soup will make you feel better in no time.
Carrot Cumin Soup
Makes about 4 cups
1 TBSP butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 lb carrots, peeled and chopped about the same size as the onion and celery
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
2 ½ cups chicken stock (you could substitute vegetable stock)
1/8 tsp ground allspice (or just a pinch)
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream or yogurt for garnish
Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan until they become fragrant — be careful not to burn them (they go fast so don’t walk away from the pan.) Set aside.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and a pinch of salt and sauté about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, 1 teaspoon of the toasted cumin seeds (save the other ½ tsp for sprinkling over the top of the finished soup), and the pinch allspice. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the carrots are very soft, about 20-25 minutes.
When the carrots are done (take one out and if they squish easily they’re done) turn the heat off under the pot. Puree the soup in a blender in batches, or with a hand blender in the pot until completely smooth and velvety. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and a sprinkling of the reserved toasted cumin seeds. Calories: About 110 per cup.