We are still under construction at our house. That means that, for the moment, all seven of us are sleeping in the same bedroom.
We've also taken turns having the flu. This has made for some long nights, with one or another of us coughing all the way through.
My husband had to wake at 4 a.m. Saturday to make it to the airport in time for a five-day business trip. We both set our alarm clocks for 4 a.m. One of the boys was coughing pretty badly, so Lindy grabbed his pillow and a sleeping bag and sacked out on the only finished floor in the upstairs -- the bathroom.
When my alarm went off I hit snooze twice. I realized at 4:20 that I didn't hear Lindy moving around upstairs so I went up to check. He was still fast asleep, cocooned in his sleeping bag. He had set his alarm to 4 p.m.
I woke him up, got coffee going and tried to keep my distracted and tired husband on track. He showered, got dressed, grabbed his suitcase, guitar, keys and cell phone. As he was ready to head out the door already 10 minutes late, I asked if he had his wallet. He did not, and furthermore, he didn't know where it was.
While he panicked and starting searching, I heard Aidan stirring in bed. I suggested that maybe Lindy had laid out his wallet in the upstairs bathroom with his clothes and Aidan yelled, "Mom ... I don't feel so good. I think I'm gonna ..." and he threw up. On the floor in the bedroom with no overhead lights where we're all packed like sardines. On the one square foot of open floor space.
As I ran for paper towels and watched to make sure the dogs didn't investigate the throw-up, Aidan stepped past Leif's bed and walked to the opening of the bedroom door. While in the doorway, he tossed his cookies again. I heard Lindy running down the stairs triumphantly saying, "I found it!" He saw what had happened and promised to make amends for having to leave me to clean up the mess. He flew out the door and I cleaned the yuck up by flashlight and got Aidan back to sleep with a metal bowl next to him on his top bunk.
Then at 7 a.m., Lindy called and said his flight had been delayed by three hours. Isn't that just the way things go?
There is never a convenient time to be ill. You can help lessen the inconvenience by having a well-stocked pantry and fridge and some easy foods to prepare on hand. In our home, I keep a steady supply of long grain jasmine rice, chicken stock, salty pretzels, gelatin, gingerroot wrapped tightly in the freezer, baking potatoes and plain bread.
We use all of these things regularly, but when folks are ill, they take on new and soothing forms.
The rice that would be steamed and tossed with herbs, onions and garlic as a side dish is cooked in chicken stock and served plain in its simple, gentle-to-the-tummy glory. The gingerroot that would flavor a stir-fry becomes a ginger and honey tea to soothe sore throats and loosen congestion.
The potatoes that under normal circumstances would be baked perfectly and topped with steelhead trout, butter, scallions and sour cream become very mild roasted potatoes topped with a little salt calculated to fill you up without making your stomach lurch.
Fish and Chips Baked Potatoes
6 large baking potatoes of uniform size, scrubbed clean
2 t. kosher salt
3 T. plus extra for drizzling, canola or other neutral oil
3/4 lbs. of your favorite fish fillets, skin on (we like steelhead trout or cod for this dish)
2 t. Cajun seasoning
1/2 c. thinly sliced scallions
Butter, to taste
Sour cream, to taste
Vinegar, to taste (we like malt vinegar for this dish)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. While oven is warming up, toss potatoes with oil and salt in a large bowl. Pierce each potato several times with a fork. Place potatoes directly on center oven rack and bake for 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a skewer or yield to gentle pressure when squeezed. Remove from oven and immediately turn oven to high broil. Place fish fillets, skin side down, on an oiled baking sheet and sprinkle generously with Cajun seasoning and drizzle lightly with oil. Place under broiler and broil for five or more minutes to desired doneness, depending on the thickness of the fish fillets. Fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork. Remove chunks of the fish away from the skin to a bowl.
To plate the dish, take each potato and cut an "X" into the top. Squeeze either side of the cut to open the potato and fluff insides with a fork. Place a pat of butter, several pieces of fish, about 1 T. of sliced green onions and a drizzle of vinegar and a dollop of sour cream, if desired. Serve hot.
Simple and Delicious Roasted Potatoes
4 large baking potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 T. canola or other neutral oil
11/2 t. kosher salt
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the salt and parsley. Toss with your hands to evenly distribute oil. Place baking sheet on the center rack in the oven and roast until potatoes are golden and crispy on the outside and fully cooked on the inside, about 30 minutes or so.
(Note: Sweet potatoes can be substituted for half of the baking potatoes. Sweet potatoes are also easy on upset stomachs.)
Rebecca Lindamood is a northern Michigan native now living in New York state. A food lover and mother of five children, she writes occasionally about preparing creative, yet affordable, meals for a family. Drop Rebecca an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to her care of the Record-Eagle.