Bless You: Ritual for a Head Cold

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There’s really nothing more delightful than a head cold or the flu. These vile little bugs have taken over and run down our happy home for the better part of the last week or more, just in case you were wondering where we have all got to recently. Bed is mostly where you would have been able to find us or struggling through something we thought we wanted / had to do… until we got there.

It remains fascinating to me that it is often the simplest and most common bugs that hammer us the most. For those brave souls who labour daily with chronic or long term illness, there comes an acceptance and a way of working around or with whatever it is your body has to deal with every single day. You know there will be good days and worse ones. You know that there will be days when you can’t get there and over time you stop beating yourself up for it. You plan contingencies. You investigate other options. You get realistic. Yet ask anyone struggling to breathe through a sinus infection or clutching the toilet bowl with violent food poisoning and they will tell you that they are dying and probably mean it. Through the miracle that is the human body they will however be completely recovered a relatively short time later.

Too many of us ignore the messages from our bodies until it is too late. We live in a society that expects us to soldier on but largely overlooks that the companies that exhort us to do so are peddling amphetamines and funding only the sickness industry. They are not anywhere near as invested in you getting well as you are. For this reason, I feel no guilt whatsoever when I clamber into bed sooner rather than later if I am feeling under the weather. Over many years I have learned how best to look after myself and my family when they get sick, with food rather than drugs and with rest rather than struggle.

Because I have been doing this for a week now as it has traversed our family and our town, I have a couple of failsafe tricks up my sleeve. Chief among them is my herbalist who never fails to come though with the goods and who makes her own ludicrously effective Fire Cider in her gorgeous herbadashery. And I should let you know now that this is what works for me and mine; I am not a doctor and this is not a prescription. This is a peek through my healing window, you make of it what you will.

Fluids are vital, in and out. Lots of warm tea with manuka honey and lemon (rind and peel) and fresh thyme. Soft tissues are a must as is a container to put them into so the germs don’t just waft aimlessly about your house looking for a place to land. Hot baths with epsom salts are worth their weight in gold. Vicks on your feet in warm socks genuinely helps me to breathe. But the one that my teenager will actually ask for at the first sign of a sniffle is my Chicky Soup. The handy thing about this soup is that it is designed to be cooked by someone whose nose is also running and would rather stick a fork in their eye than spend any time in the kitchen.

You will have to head into the kitchen to get the soup made or bribe someone else into doing it for you. Sorry, there’s no other way.

Get yourself an organic cooked chook – unless you feel like raising and then gently poaching it yourself – and shred the chicken from it.

Fill a giant saucepan full of good homemade stock – the sort that has been made with the bones of the carcass rather than the sort that comes in a tetra brick pack – and put it on to a low simmer.

If you are not someone who eats chicken or wears leather, the recipe falls down for you here. I am as sorry for you as a carnivore with a cold could possibly be. Presumably, it is feasible to do this without meat and without bone broth stock but I have never tried it. Insert vegan stock options here.

Add all of the following to the pot and don’t bother cooking them first. As each of these ingredients is chucked in, visualise getting better. Do not focus on how utterly crap you feel, because who wants to eat that intention for dinner?! Take time instead to think how this soup will heal you and nourish you and make you feel amazing again. This is the magic extra something and it is quite frankly crucial*.

So with that intention of good health held firmly in your mind for the next few moments (and every other time you check, stir or taste the soup) add the following:

  • Garlic – as fresh as possible and don’t even bother if it has been bleached, sprayed or imported. If that’s the case you are actually better using the garlic from a jar but it won’t be anywhere near as effective. Support your local growers, find one near you. Whatever amount you think is too much garlic, double it.
  • Chop onions, leeks, celery & kale roughly so you can just chuck them all into the pot and then later on shovel them into your mouth without burning your chin because you have not cut them small enough
  • Fresh thyme leaves – as many of these little babies as possible. Ideally just the leaves but if you cannot manage that just try to leave the woody bits out. They hurt going down, trust me.
  • Fresh parsley roughly chopped
  • Cardamon pods if you have them, leave them whole
  • Grated ginger and again fresh is better
  • Turmeric (see ginger) which will turn the soup yellowish. If you can’t get your hands on the fresh stuff, use the dried herb because it is amazing for healing
  • A dash of chilli or paprika, generous amounts of pepper and a heap of Himalayan salt
  • Add a few lemon slices that still have the rind on

Make sure as soon as you have all these ingredients in the pot and on a low simmer that you leave the lid on. Because I am personally terrible at following recipes / instructions, let me make this step really clear. Leave. The. Lid. ON. If you don’t and simmer the soup uncovered, much of its aromatic goodness will escape into your kitchen rather than finding its true home in your belly, where it can do the most good.

Leave the soup to simmer for a little while. This can be as long as a bath or as short as the time it takes you to do a reccy around the house clearing up dirty tissues and spraying a eucalyptus oil infusion to kill the airborne germs. The longer the better on a low heat, enough to warm it without boiling anything. This soup is divine the second time you go for a bowl or the third or the fourth. Hence, make heaps and leave it on the stove.

Serve and get it into you as hot as possible. If you must have bread with it, make it garlic bread and make it fresh. If it’s one of those sugary loaves of crap that you just shove in the oven, have a second bowl of soup instead. Sugar is the devil when you are sick and feeds the bug more than it feeds you.

Rinse your bowl and put it by the sink or in the dishwasher, if you live in the lap of abundant water luxury. This is because otherwise you will end up with bowls of soup dregs everywhere and it will add to the feeling of overwhelm that comes with your cold. Rinse it out. Like changing the toilet roll or putting the lid properly back on the milk, it only takes a second and dominates the alternative.

Put yourself and your household to bed. Make sure you are warm and there is a giant glass of water and tissues by your bed. Turn the phone, your I-everything and the world off, it will all still be there when you feel up to taking it on again. Muse on what may be going on in your life that has overwhelmed you and forced you to rest. Drift off to sleep almost immediately without finding an answer.

Sleep. Dream. Feel better.

Repeat as required, Bohemians.

If you feel this soup did not work for you it is back to the asterisk that I will take you. Repeatedly. I will interrogate you on what you were thinking about as you made the soup. I will suggest actually looking up a chant or spell that invites good health to the soup for you to use as you make it. Failing that I will sit you down to watch Like Water For Chocolate and then spend an hour after the movie explaining to you that it’s real. Yes I will. Yes it is.