’Tis the season to be… busy. Holiday parties, marathon shopping sessions, tree trimming, latke making, holiday baking, family visits, visiting family, on the run and on the go with a ho, ho, ho!
If I have learned one thing as a parent, it’s the best laid plans are guaranteed to change. And the most predictable predicament lies at the intersection of seasons: holiday vs. cold and flu. So is it any wonder the first sign of Santa, I run for the Vitamin C? While the old guy looks well fed and jolly, it doesn’t escape me that the dude always wears gloves and has a bushy beard as a germ catcher.
Last weekend, my daughter and I went to the local mall’s tree lighting ceremony. While others were cheerfully singing along to Jingle Bell Rock, I had a surreal out-of-body experience. First of all, I hate being squeezed in with the rest of teeming humanity — ye olde panic disorder rears her ugly head. Secondly, I didn’t need special 3-D glasses to see germs dashing through the air on a one-nose open sneeze. A sniff here, a cleared throat there, and suddenly I understood why germaphobes wear surgical masks in pubic. Pass me the plum pudding scented antibacterial gel; I’m starting to panic.
Unlike some of my other relatively irrational fears (clowns, puppets, carnies, and yes, the freaky guy at the tree lighting ceremony wearing a shabby Santa suit and a plastic Grinch mask — nothing says maniacal killer like bad costumes), the flu is the bane of my existence. That anything you absolutely had to do — work, travel, host 100 people at your house for a holiday ball, whatever — is ripped from your agenda is a given. And the replacement for your to do list is a doozy: sleepless nights, sitting on a cold tile floor trying to comfort a retching child, cleaning up vomit, clearing a sea of used tissues from a mangled bed, refilling humidifiers, and worst of all, the infinite cycle of laundry. The endless stream of sheets (which I HATE folding), pillowcases, sweats, and jammies. Where the hell are the elves when you really need them?
As I write this, my daughter’s hollow cough just reminds me that although I’d love to share with you some magic bullet cure* for the common cold, there is nothing but surrender. Push aside those spent tissues and make a spot on the bed to watch bad reality TV with your under-the-weather loved one. Strangely enough, some of my happiest childhood memories include being tucked back into a cold bed when a fever raged, sharing my twin beds with my mom after we both came down with the same flu (well, I got it first and gave it to her — at least I made it for her from scratch!), and the comforting taste of ginger ale and saltines. Even then, I realized a day off from the grind could be a relief.
In fact, my dirtiest secret (well, the one I’d tell you, anyways — remember my family reads this blog! 50 shades of hell no you don’t) is that every once and a while, I yearn for a sick day. For me. Not a down and out nasty, but the perfect one: the license to ill. Just enough to close the door, hand making dinner or doing dishes or even better, laundry, to the uninfected.
So if you see me shuffling around the house in the middle of the day in flannel jammies and slippers, feel free to join me. It’s a sick fantasy, but sometimes the best gift of all is being grounded for a day.
* Nana’s Chicken Soup — while not necessarily a magic bullet, the people do call this Jewish Penicillin for a reason! This is perhaps my most cherished recipe — yours for the holidaze cold & flu season!
One cut-up bird, plus two breasts (Kosher if you can, organic is good too)
1-2 whole onions with the skin on, cleaved (just poke with a knife to let the taste out)
2 bunches of carrots, peeled and cut carrots in halves or thirds
A handful of fresh parsley
1 green pepper, cut in half
1 sweet potato, cut in half
3-4 stalks of celery, cleaned with tops on
2-4 parsnips, peeled and cut in halves or thirds
Bay leaf (optional)
6 (or more) bullion cubes
2-4 cloves of garlic, skin on or off
Cover chicken with water and bring to a boil.
Skim off the gray scum that forms on the surface.
Lower the flame to simmer and add the rest of the ingredients (veggies, bullion, garlic, bay leaf).
Leave the cover off the pot just a little bit, and keep the pot simmering for three or more hours.
Take the chicken out and put it in a separate bowl. Once it’s cooled, take off the skin off the chicken, remove it from the bone, and cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks. (Make chicken salad from any of the meat you don’t want to use for the soup.)
Remove veggies, garlic, and bay leaf. You can throw away everything but the carrots and parsnips.
You want a clear soup, so put the broth in the fridge over night so you can skim the yellow fat off the surface the next day.
Add back in the carrots, parsnips, and chunks of chicken.
Put the soup back on the stove, and heat until it’s boiling hot and ready to cure all ills!
BONUS RECIPE – Matzo Balls! This recipe yields 8 balls, so normally I double it. Also, if I’m really being your bitch, I’ll tell you that I like the packaged Manischewitz Matzo Balls mix that you just add oil, eggs and water to make. My motto is even if it’s easy, if it comes in a box it’s even better!
2 tablespoons oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup matzo meal
1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus extra salt to put in the water)
2 tablespoons club soda
Mix oil with eggs.
Add matzo meal and salt — blend well.
Add club soda.
Cover and place in fridge for at least 20 minutes.
Using a 3-quart pot, bring salted water to a boil.
Wet your hands, and make balls by rolling batter lightly to form balls. (Approximately a tablespoon of batter makes a decent sized ball – more if you like big ass balls!)
Drop the balls in boiling water, and lower the heat. Cover the pot with the lid slightly off.
Cook for 30-40 minutes.
Drop your balls in your heated soup and enjoy your Jewish Penicillin!
Now enjoy the soothing tones of this season’s anthem, the Run DMC classic, You Be Illin’ —