13 August 2004

Folk remedy

I've been battling a seriously nasty head cold this past week, fully accessorized with fever chills and sweats. Early on in this ordeal, I woke up early with my damn sore throat presaging evil times ahead, and visited the grocery store in search of healthful sundries (ginger ale, oranges, the makings for hot-and-sour chicken soup).

I usually go to the smaller, locally-owned store rather than the megalomart across the street, and so the cashier gal (picture a sweet, blond gal of about 17) knew me, saw my purchases, and asked what I was making. I told her about my world-famous hot-and-sour soup, and the reason why I needed some pronto. She nodded wisely and intoned, "A pint inside and a pint outside... that's what you need."

"the what now?" I said.

"A pint inside and a pint outside", she repeated. "My great-grandmother always told us that the best way to fight a cold was to rub a pint of vodka all over your skin (all over), and then drink a pint of vodka."

I opined that this was just a crafty way of enforcing bed rest, because it would be unwise to leave the house smelling quite that strongly of hooch, and anyway the internally taken vodka would knock you out for a few days in itself. She shook her head solemnly and said that it has never failed, and by the way her great-grandmother is in her nineties and rides a motorcycle.

Later that night, propped up on many pillows, armed with tissues and my water bottle, I was watching a History channel show about Napoleon and Waterloo, and heard the narrator inform us that the commander of the Prussian troops, a 76-year-old-whatnot, had his horse killed underneath him, causing the horse to land heavily on both of the commander's legs. When his men reached him, he shook them off, demanded a bottle of gin, rubbed half the contents over himself, and drained the remainder down his gullet. He then mounted a fresh horse and proceeded to survive the battle with distinction.

Now, I'm a seasoned professional of Irish descent, and my eyebrows are still raised in awe and disbelief. Honestly? I'm-a stick with my hot-and-sour soup.

Rock Grrrl's Hot-and-Sour Soup
Try a Pint of This Inside, Before You Do Something Reckless Involving Vodka

1 whole, skinless, bone-in chicken breast
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted and thinly sliced
1/2 pound firm tofu, diced small
3 Tbs soy sauce
4 Tbs rice or white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten
minced scallions for garnish
tabasco sauce
dark sesame oil

Place chicken and stock together in a stockpot; bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until chicken is cooked, about 20 minutes. (keep it at a gentle simmer, not a boil, or you'll get scummy soup)

Remove cooked chicken from stock, turn off heat from under stock, and shove chicken into the fridge to cool. When it's cool enough to handle, shred it by hand into nice spoon-sized bits. Discard bones.

Put chicken back into stock, along with mushrooms, tofu, soy sauce, vinegar, pepper, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Lower heat to simmer, and slowly whisk in eggs. Simmer gently for another two minutes, add scallions, a few jiggers of tabasco, and ladle into a bowl. Float a couple of drops of sesame oil on top of each serving. Add more hot sauce to taste.

(loosely adapted from Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything)

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