I came home from London with covid. It has not been the one where people say it was just like a bad cold and didn’t stop them doing much – a weird combination of bragging about the strength of their immune system, combined with a tinge of disbelief that it could really be that bad.
On day eleven I am still in bed struggling to stay upright for the whole of the day – my disco naps turning into full symphony slumbers.
My husband gets sick two days behind me. He too, fails to get the fluffy kind of covid, staggering from his bed to the bathroom and back again before collapsing in a heap. The dog is not impressed. Bribed with spray cheese in an empty Lemsip box, she destroys this in the garden in lieu of a walk.
I order the supermarket delivery, off my head with a temperature. Unpacking the ingredients to make trifle but not tissues, or loo roll or tins of soup that might make the painful shuffle to the kitchen for dinner more bearable. I did remember beans but not enough bread.
We do, however, have four aubergines and a tin of jackfruit so when I am back to cooking I can spend an entire day trying to think what to make with them.
I crave custard, jelly, the blob of thick whipped cream on the top of a trifle, studded with bleeding hundreds and thousands. It’s funny what we think of as comfort food. Peanut butter toast becomes a staple. Even in the throes of covid my husband struggles with me buttering the toast the wrong way up, or in the wrong direction, with the moon rising in Aries – don’t ask!
I long for soup and silky pasta bakes, he craves the comfort of curry. We always were an odd couple.
I have a passion for old cookbooks. A 1930s favourite, Economical cookery – is a glimpse into history, with costings and menus and dishes long out of flavour.
My favourite section is the Cooking for Invalids. Between the sections on Buns, Scones and Biscuits and Homemade preserves for the Larder, are fifteen pages to fortify your recovery from illness.
Here we are informed that ‘the appetite of an invalid is often jaded, and every effort has to be made to induce them to take sufficient nourishment to prevent undue wasting’ . And to always use a white cloth and dainty dishes to entice the appitite. Fine sentiments and very wise. Who isn’t tempted by fresh Banana’s and custard or a coddled egg?
The recipe for Invalid Jelly is less appetizing – boiled pearly barley with a dash of beef essence, served cooled to a set jelly. Or a recipe for gruel, served plain for the poorly? Calf’s foot jelly, perhaps ?
Jelly is definitely a thing – just not the kind I was craving.
How about some Raw beef tea! – this involves 4oz of ‘juicy beef’ bashed and soaked in ¼ pint of cold water for an hour, making sure that the particles are pressed against the side of the bowl to wring out all the goodness. Then strain. And serve. Yum!
The recipe does suggest straining into a coloured glass as ‘it would be most unpalatable if served in a cup or plain beaker.’ !!!!!!! – Oh, a coloured glass is really gonna make all the difference.
My absolute favourite recipe, though one I’ve never been sick enough to try, is toast water.
Now everyone knows that toast is the perfect staple poorly food ( as long as you remember to order bread) but toast water takes it to whole other level.
The instructions demand stale bread, toasted slowly until very dark. This is then placed in jar and covered in boiling water. Allowed to stand until cold, it’s then strained, discarding the bread and the ‘water’ served with a little sugar or dash of beef tea for flavour.
Even in the mists of covid coughing, addled with fever dreams, I cannot imagine longing for toast water. How sick would you have to be to?
They were clearly made of sterner stuff in the Twentieth Century. I’m not sure I have the stomach for being an invalid.
Instead, my husband and I, zombie like, wait for the Tesco delivery of bread and milk, comforting fishfingers and the essential Lemsip topped strawberry trifle.
I’d ask you to come in for tea but we’re still positive. Otherwise, we’ve some pretty coloured glasses, so you’ll be grand.