Food52 Life

Too Many Cooks: Our *Proven* Cure-Alls

January 17, 2016

It's here. You know what I'm talking about. Not the snow, not the gray-post snow slush, not the threatening array of Valentine's Day merchandise at the drugstore (well, that too).

The sniffles. They're here.

This week we asked the team to share their food-and-drink remedies—the fire ciders, chicken soups, saltine crackers painstakingly spread with peanut butter that they turn to when they start coming down with a cold (or worse). We won't say it's the same as a doctor's visit, but hey—take it from us:

Kate: I love carrot-ginger soup when I feel a cold coming on—it's a little sweet, warm, smooth, and nutritious. But when I get really lazy, there is nothing like an ice-cold ginger ale and pasta with butter, salt, pepper, and a little Parm. Total childhood comfort food.

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Caroline: I really love turmeric tea—a paste of turmeric, ginger, and honey, a squeeze of lemon, and hot water the rest of the way up. Nothing is as warming, and it's so bright yellow that it makes me feel like it might really be working some kind of magic.

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Top Comment:
“Homemade Elderberry gummies with ginger and turmeric In winter (cold season), I up my daily vitamin D, zinc and C. Plus, I do colloidal silver, & oregano oil if feeling something coming on. Haven't been "down" with a full blown cold in years. I can't do flu shots so I break out all the tricks to keep the immune system as strong as possible ”
— Atlanta G.

Merrill: I had my first experience with turmeric tea last week, and it will definitely be repeated. I also rely heavily on Scottish Breakfast tea (with plenty of milk and sugar), toast with honey, and soft, comforting foods like Goat Cheese Grits when I'm sick.

Jeremy: I certainly enjoy a hot toddy, even if I don’t put bourbon in it.

Micki: Ice pops (the cherry-orange-grape combo is always a solid choice), matzo ball soup, plain saltines, ginger tea (green tea with fresh ginger steeped in it, and a good spoonful of sugar), hot toddies!

Haley: I believe hot toddies will cure anything!

Bitters + soda: The perfect drink. Photo by Mark Weinberg

Amanda H.: I've convinced myself that bitters are a cure-all, so I sprinkle them in my glasses of water. And this year, I've stepped it up to switchels and shrubs, which I add to hot water. If nothing else, I feel purified.

Olivia: My friends are tired of hearing me tout the miraculous benefits of what I call "garlic brew." A not-recipe passed on to me by my childhood best friend, a certified hippie, garlic brew is what I turn to when I feel a scratch in my throat or an itch in my nose. Run as many raw garlic cloves as you think you can stand through a garlic press (I try to do at least 4 or 5). In a small glass, combine the garlic, a glob of honey, a few generous splashes of apple cider vinegar, and dilute with water. Stir and CHUG! Congrats, you're cured!

Amanda S.: Olivia! I am terrified of that, but so intrigued. On the wimpier side of tonics, I err towards a big spoonful of honey mixed with lemon juice. It's what my mom always fed me when I was getting sick, and I have a total involuntary memory of being coddled by her when I taste it, thereby feeling at least a little instantly better. It soothes a sore throat, too.

Jackie: I am a big fan of the garlic, ginger, honey, lemon, turmeric, and apple-cider tonics—but I also fully believe in channeling your grandma and going the homemade chicken broth route. It cures anything and is just so soul-warming.

Sarah D.: Matzo ball soup and pretzels, in large doses. I'm also a big fan of the ginger tea situation, especially with, like, two massive dollops of honey.

Sara: I make a tea of fresh ginger sliced and sliced lemon. It should be so spicy from the ginger that it's painful. Drink it warm with or without honey. (Also I have to admit I'm a huge fan of Campbell's tomato soup, with as many raw cloves of garlic as you can take pressed into it.)

Tim: During the winter, I'll boil a pound of ginger and just heat it up as needed with lemon and honey.

Alexis: I'm convinced that a strong screwdriver will cure a cold. The vodka kills the germs and orange juice boosts your immunity.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

Jojo: I swear by blueberries. Every time I feel a cold coming on, I binge on blueberries, and the seemingly unavoidable illness disappears. It really works; I haven't been sick in over 2 years.

Leslie: Tom Kha Gai soup! Served extra-spicy over sticky rice, it is the ultimate cure-all. Considering the number of college ailments I treated with it (pneumonia, mono, tonsillitis, too many fevers to count), I've become a true believer in its healing qualities.

Catherine: My mom always made me chicken soup (not homemade, the microwave variety) served with two slices of white toast coated with butter. I never finished my soup but never had any trouble finishing the toast.

What's your go-to? Share the remedies you swear by in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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knittingrid February 4, 2017
I make ginger tea and drink it hot or cold, with whiskey, rum, or bourbon, or without. As a kid in Bavaria, I was dosed with Zwiebeltee which did the trick for a bad bout of bronchitis, and I have been trying to figure out how to make it ever since. Also, hot and sour soup from the Szechwan restaurant up the street is great in the winter whether you're sick or not.
Frederique M. February 3, 2017
Golden Milk for me and my daughter (freshly grated turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper simmered in coconut milk with some honey), straight up ginger/turmeric/pepper/honey with boiling water when my throat is scratchy, elderberry tea, sinus rinse everyday and twice a day when sick, lots of soup made with lots of ginger, chili and garlic to kill the bacteria in the throat. I used to order vindaloo when i had a cold and i would literally cry it was so spicy but damn it got everything out! REST! I tend to be able to manage scratchy throat and miss the cold that goes with it by doing the above, but this winter is INSANE stres-wise and im battling my 4th cold. They go away faster with the above, but they still come.. Oh, and Valerian for the stress!
T C. February 3, 2017
I order in Vietnamese Pho. And add extra garlic-chili paste to it.

Avgolemono soup also works wonders!
Heather R. February 3, 2017
Avgolemono soup! (Greek chicken soup with rice, egg & lemon).Your Yiayia would agree.
Dee January 21, 2016
Garlic tea. One to two cloves of garlic chopped fine, juice of half a lemon, one to two tsp. honey, in a cup of fresh brewed tea. Drink slowly, inhaling the steam. Eat the garlic when you're done. Cures a multitude of evil viruses. I've made this for years, since my children were small, and even as adults, they still make it when they're coming down with colds and flus.
Atlanta G. January 19, 2016
Homemade chicken soup with LOTS of garlic & mushrooms

Homemade bone broth with only grassfed /pasture organic beef/chicken and veggies. I cook it for 5 days in the slow cooker.

I have a jar of raw honey, sliced lemons, grated ginger & turmeric, broken cinnamon sticks. I have it ready in case of a cold coming on.

I have a jar of fermented organic garlic cloves. I eat 1-2 a day every day. Increase to 4x a day if feeling a cold coming on.

Homemade Elderberry gummies with ginger and turmeric

In winter (cold season), I up my daily vitamin D, zinc and C.

Plus, I do colloidal silver, & oregano oil if feeling something coming on. Haven't been "down" with a full blown cold in years. I can't do flu shots so I break out all the tricks to keep the immune system as strong as possible
CanadaDan January 18, 2016
Spicy thai coconut curry soup...I make a massive batch during the first frost and wait until the inevitible cold hits. You get the scientifically proven healing power of homemade chicken stock plus the spice opens up your airways...also its goddamn delicious. I have a recipe i've been using for years if anyone wants it.
Patricia W. January 19, 2016
Send me your recipe for soup please, i love to make soup.
CanadaDan January 19, 2016
Here you go...don't worry if your first can of coconut milk doesn't have the thick paste..just use the milk itself

serves 4


2 14 ounce cans coconut milk
1.5 heaping Tablespoon Thai red curry paste (I like Blue Dragon)
1 bunch cilantro roots; rinsed well and tied together with twine or wrapped in cheese cloth
3-4 chicken thighs, sliced into 4 pieces each
2 cups chicken broth
2 carrot, shredded
2 stalks lemon grass; halved lengthwise, woody leaves removed
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 limes, zest and juice
a small knob ginger; cut in a few 1/4 inch slices
a handful bean sprouts
1 8 ounce package vermicelli
2 garlic cloves finely diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper finely diced; seeds removed
bean sprouts (optional)
green onions (optional)

Scoop the thick coconut cream from the top of just one of the cans into a large stockpot set over a medium-high heat. Melt the cream, add the curry paste and stir for a few minutes until they begin to sizzle.

Add the diced garlic, jalapeno and chicken and sauté until the chicken is cooked through, about 7 minutes.

Add the coconut juice from the first can and all the contents of the second can along with the chicken broth, cilantro root carrot, ginger, lemon grass, fish sauce and lime zest and juice.

Bring to a boil, turn down heat and let simmer gently for at least an hour or as long as you want, the longer the better.

Cook vermicelli put putting them in boiling water for a minute. (Don’t cook the vermicelli in the soup or they’ll soak up the broth and it’ll become a slurry).

Pick out the lemongrass and ginger from the soup. Put some vermicelli in bowls and ladle soup over it. Add bean sprouts and sliced green onions if you want.
Miachel P. January 17, 2016
This is adorable. Also, I'm a big fan of turmeric-ginger tea as a cure-all for anything and everything.
zooey January 17, 2016
How did you know I needed this article?!? I've been doing the lemon-turmeric-lemon-honey-cayenne tonics for the last two days and I just gave Olivia's "garlic brew" a try! It packs a punch.
Patricia B. January 17, 2016
I feel a cold coming on, I smack my lips together a couple of times and think about what I'm craving. I eat what I'm craving as my body is telling me what it needs to fight what ever is trying to harm me. It could be homemade chicken soup, tuna on toast, poached eggs or even ice cream. This always works for me. And when your sick, eat what sounds good. It's the only thing that will stay down.
Melanie January 17, 2016
Instead of ginger tea I put my fresh ginger straight through the juicer. I take a shot of it whenever I feel a cold coming on and I can feel the virus burning in my ears and throat. Raw garlic is my second choice.
creamtea January 17, 2016
I give my kids lemon-honey tea (hot water with a big spoonful of honey and a generous squeeze of lemon)
Or I make chicken soup.
For myself I sometimes make garlic broth. A whole head of minced garlic simmered in water with a pinch of salt. Serve by the mug with a spoon and a lemon quarter.
Samantha January 17, 2016
I'm a teacher and I've found that the best remedy is organic chicken soup (or just broth) with a large dollop of siracha, a 1/2-1 tsp of turmeric and a huge splash of Braggs Apple cider. It's cured colds, sinus ailments and general malaise.
luvcookbooks January 17, 2016
I am a doctor and I prescribe:
Chicken soup and tea w honey and lemon for colds
Turmeric tea for inflammation
Ginger tea for respiratory complaints and stomach upset
Dr. Charles mcKee's medicinal hot drink for respiratory complaints in adults w no concerns about substance misuse
Chamomile and valerian for sleep
Hot milk w honey and nutmeg for sleep
My mom gave us 7 up and saltines when we were bed bound.
Pat Willard wrote a lovely little book about invalid cookery.
Caroline L. January 17, 2016
hot milk with honey and nutmeg sounds so unbelievably cozy. can't wait to try!