Love in a time of Comfort Food

Hallie Lord has this amazing post about her husband Dan and how he cares for her when she is sick.

While Jeff is great when I’m sick at taking care of the house and kids and making sure the trains all run on time, aside from the occasional ginger ale run, he’s not great with the nurturing part of taking care of a sick wife. Or sick kid. Which is why he cleans up throw up while I comfort the sick child.

These last six months have been some of the sickest in our family. Ever. I’ve had the virus from hell that’s not the flu, the 24 hour stomach bug and a ridiculous cold. William’s had an ear infection and pink eye. Jeff’s had several bad viruses. And Joseph. Joseph’s had strep throat twice, an ear infection and walking pneumonia. (Mercifully, God has spared Shelby in all of this minus the occasional intestinal discomfort which she bears like a champ.)

Joseph’s second bout with strep throat was diagnosed last night. At the emergency room. Because he didn’t want a throat culture and didn’t tell me about any discomfort til after I’d gotten home from work about 4 pm yesterday. And our pediatrician has walk-in sick hours Saturday morning! But it wasn’t a sore throat he complained of. It was a pain in his neck. A pain that was an extremely enlarged lymph node. The tonsils on the inside corresponded with the lymph node. And a fever of 102. He NEVER fevers when sick. Off to the ER we went, I was fearing mono. 24 minutes after arriving, we were triaged and the nurse gave him Motrin (because, Mom of the year didn’t have any at home) and swabbed his throat. I was somewhat relieved when 45 minutes later back in the waiting area, the check-in nurse came over with a mask.

“First of all, ” she said, noticing his storm trooper jacket his great-aunts gave him for Christmas 2013, “I LOVE the jacket. And second, he’s got strep and needs to put this on.”

Almost 2  hours after we came in, we went back to a room to await a doctor or PA. The motrin had kicked in so Joseph wasn’t so grouchy and he enjoyed watching Cartoon Network while we waited. A kind PA came in and examined him. He was very worried about the lymph node and made me promise to bring  Joseph to the pediatrician Monday to have it re-checked. The other option was getting a shot of a steroid for the swelling (the PA was worried about an absess developing in the node) but none of us was excited by that prospect. Because they knew it was too late to get a prescription filled that evening, a nurse brought in Joseph’s first antibiotic dose. And we were discharged.

It should also be noted that Jeff currently has the cold I just spent 2 weeks with and a week recovering from. He had been home all day with all three kids (including a sniffly Shelby and William) while I worked and then cooked dinner and entertained Shelby and William for three hours while I was in the ER with Joseph.

Everyone was in bed well before 11. Usually the kids are anyway, but even Jeff was. I was exhausted. I collapsed into bed. But as I fell asleep I dreamed of how I would take care of my ailing family tomorrow.

With Joseph sick as he is, and Jeff down for the count, we didn’t make mass this morning. Jeff was not up to caring for Shelby and a sick Joseph plus himself. Morning began with Jeff actually getting Shelby up. I was up shortly after to get the boys up. Joseph only wanted milk for breakfast and William had cheerios. I made the morning low-key. I had to get Joseph’s prescription and return something to a big box store. I got some motrin too and the pièce de résistance for my care plan. Food.

I had already planned dinner for today as meatloaf with onion rings and mac and cheese which is one of my favorite cold-weather comfort food meals. Nevermind that my children do not like meatloaf. I don’t think I’ll ever give up trying to get them to eat it. I’m 1/4 Italian, so it’s in my DNA that food is a cure. And being the wife of a chef and a lover of all kinds of food, I’ve also come to realize that really great food is food that evokes memories of a specific time and place.

Exactly like that.

Meatloaf isn’t something I remember eating growing up (although I know we did) but I have specific memories of Jeff teaching me to make it in our first apartment and working with hamburger with my hands for the first time.

I’ve also been obsessed with the PBS show A Chef’s Life which is filmed a short hour and a half away in Kinston, NC, very close to where Jeff grew up in Goldsboro. Chef Vivian Howard NEVER intended to move back to eastern NC until her parents made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. And since opening her restaurant and relocating her family to the area, she has made a study of comfort foods and ingredients. In a recent episode, she explored chicken and made fried chicken with the woman who cared for her grandmother. Seriously, watch this show.

So, feeding my family when they are sick is one of my favorite ways to show my love. Meatloaf for dinner and for lunch: soup. Jeff had actually made vegetable soup yesterday while he was home with the kids and so his lunch was set. Surprisingly, Shelby ate some of it too. She only really ate the broth, but still. New food and she wanted it. Joseph has preferred liquid and soft food (I can’t imagine why) and so I picked him up some chicken and stars. Because what kid doesn’t feel loved when they have chicken and stars. Yes it’s processed, but we can handle that every now and again. William doesn’t eat soup. William, in case you haven’t noticed, doesn’t eat a lot of things. He went from being my best eater to being the world’s pickiest. He had a peanut butter sandwich.

To see everyone with warm food in their bellies does my heart good. And I didn’t want to leave myself out. It’s cold and yesterday I had a hankerin’ (please remember, I live in the South) for some white bread. I’m a 100% whole wheat bread kinda girl and converted the whole family (including Sir Picky-Pants) but I just sort of needed a little white bread in my life. I made myself a tuna melt with the tuna salad Jeff and I made for my work lunches yesterday and had my favorite soup, tomato. Grilled cheese and tomato soup is an all-time favorite meal of mine that I hadn’t had recently and adding the tuna salad was just the ticket.

And I was surprised at dinner to see Joseph tried everything at dinner. He wasn’t a fan of any of it. But he did try. He wasn’t in a mac and cheese mood (normally a favorite). William ate oatmeal. Shelby ate the bacon off the meatloaf and mac and cheese. Jeff and I enjoyed the meatloaf.

I know, you’re all thinking, why such a big ol post about feeding my family. I’m not great at it, but I do enjoy it. And it makes me feel loved when someone cooks special for me. So, there you go. We’re sick (some of us) and we have full tummies and some of them get it was all out of love. I’ll take it.