Jell-O drink. That’s what my mom called the concoction of red Jell-O powder mixed with hot water and served in a mug that she gave us whenever we were sick. Looking back, I’m not sure if it was an actual recipe intended to soothe and heal rather than an attempt to stop the whining of a sick kid while using only what she could find in our depleted pantry. While it won’t win any health awards, it was so sugary delicious that no matter how sore our throats were she could still get liquids into us.
I was reminded of Jell-O drink this past week when my kids came down with the flu. Yes, the influenza flu. And yes, it was probably swine flu (a.k.a. H1N1 a.k.a. The Plague of All Nations if you listen to the media) according to the doctor. They put the whole family on Tamiflu in case the baby is born in the next few days and so I, fortunately, didn’t get the bug! Still, I got a little panicky. I’ll admit it. My eldest had a fever of nearly 104 and his zombie stare was freaking me out. So I did what any good mother does when a child is sick and you feel completely powerless to help – I tried to feed him.
Remember the old adage of “feed a cold, starve a fever”? I never put much stock in that. How are you supposed to recover if you are starving? My poor feverish sons though were completely on board with that. The more they refused food, the more I tried to get them to eat. At last, when I went back to the store for the 4th time in 2 days to get more medicine, in my desperation to get them to ingest something, anything, I bought them all the things I think of as “sick food.” Popsicles, root beer, pudding, juice, ice cream, Cheez-its (um, what??) and of course Jell-O all went into my cart. (Side note: I was terrified I was going to see someone I knew and they would see all the crap in my cart and judge me.)
My kids thought the swine flu was the best thing that had ever happened to them. The last time we had soda pop in the house was when everyone had the stomach flu a year ago. You’d think they’d never seen white bread before from the way they devoured an entire loaf in an hour. Long story short, they ate nothing but cold and/or sugary confections for three days straight. My relief that they were taking in calories and the much-vaunted fluids was quickly usurped by the fact that everything they were eating was nutritionally void. The homemade chicken soup I made? Untouched. Yogurt berry smoothie? Left to rot (or become more yogurty because, you know, it’s already bacteria laden). Even my whole wheat pumpkin muffins – usually a five star favorite around here – were ignored.
Ah, mother guilt. Despite the fact that everyone healed up quite nicely (and quickly – thanks Tamiflu!), my shame persists. Surely if there is ever a time a body needs healthy food, it is when it is sick! Right? And yet when I get sick generally all I want to eat are plain Cheerios and hot Tang. Seriously, Tang is like crack to me. Especially the sugar free garbage; I love me some hot aspartame.
It got me thinking, what do you all eat when you are sick? Are you all about the brussells sprouts and salmon to bolster your weakened immune system? Or do you have a comfort food too? Also – anyone else ever think that everyone is looking at what you buy at the grocery store and silently judging you??