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Monday, January 13, 2014

Eating My Gruel

English: Tom kha gai, a Thai coconut chicken s...
Tom kha gai, a Thai coconut chicken soup, made with lemongrass, galanga, Thai chiles, Kifir lime leaves, cilantro, and canned straw mushrooms. Photographed in the Oakmore neighborhood of Oakland, California, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
        Gruel, to me, has always sounded like a pretty nasty thing to eat.  I've always associated it with food served in dank dungeons or orphanages.  Visions of Oliver Twist pleading for "More" come to mind.  We often refer to something tedious, difficult, and wearying as "gruelling".    I've never thought that I would want to eat gruel.

        Yet looking up the word I find that gruel is merely a thin watery cereal--watered down oatmeal, cream of wheat, grits, or the like.  It's not something I normally crave, but this week it's been high on my list of things I wanted to eat.   Nothing has sounded very good over this past week.  Not even pizza.

        When you're on the road it seems that simple foods like gruel are not always widely available.  Grits maybe, but I didn't think about grits since it's never been a favorite food substance of mine.  The Radisson Resort where we were staying in Orlando didn't have any gruel on the menu in the Bistro.  They had fried egg sandwich concoctions and the like, but none that sounded too good to me.  There was oatmeal on the twelve dollar breakfast buffet and we actually did have that buffet one morning.  It should have been free with the room.   That's a breakfast buffet that deserves a bad review on Yelp.  I may still leave that review at the risk of being sued.

      I've been doing a lot of nibbling on crackers and such.  Chicken broth would have been better, but restaurants seem to prefer soups that are thick and creamy or spicy with a tomato base and nothing like that was sounding very good to me.  Granted on the trip home we made our regular stop in San Antonio, Texas to have breakfast at Mi Tierra Cafe and Panaderia.   If you haven't been to this famous restaurant in the Market Square area it's well worth a visit if you like Mexican food served in a festive gaudy atmosphere.   My wife and I love it.  The food was great as always that morning, but for the next 500 miles of driving that day my stomach was chastising me for such reckless eating under my conditions of illness.

      The food that I seem to crave most when I'm experiencing flu-like symptoms is Tom Kha Kai, a Thai chicken soup made with coconut milk, mushrooms, and an array of assorted vegetables and spices.  Not always easy to find, but I managed to consume three bowls over the past week.  They were not as spicy as I normally have them, but the stuff sure appeals to my taste.    After today's bowl from my favorite local Thai restaurant I feel the healing powers at work.  And now with no driving (or riding--my thanks to my wife for all the driving she did on the trip back), I should be able to rest properly in my own bed and get well.

       I've been eating my gruel in a figurative sense over the past week--it's been a gruelling time.   But I tell you, I sure love those cross country road trips.   I can do without the sickness part and fortunately I usually don't get sick when I'm travelling.   I'll still keep stopping at Mi Tierra in San Antonio and now when I'm not craving barbeque when I'm passing through Phoenix, I've found a fine little Thai restaurant on Chandler Road that serves some decent Tom Kha Kai.   Next time maybe I can call Larry Cavanaugh and Stephen T. McCarthy to meet me for a quick lunch.

        I should be back to blogging normalcy on Wednesday.   What is "blogging normalcy" anyway?

        Do you like Thai food?   Have you ever been to Mi Tierra Cafe in San Antonio?   What food do you think has the most healing properties when you're ill?  

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  1. I've never really had any Thai food, it's not a big thing here in Cornwall, UK, but soups are good when I'm feeling poorly. Especially creamy chicken soup, or yummy tomato :) hope you are feeling better soon xx

  2. I am not one for Thai food, I prefer good English food.
    Hope you're feeling better.

  3. Thai food is one of my favorite!
    I can eat oatmeal, but not grits or anything else. Just don't like the texture.
    Soup is always good when you're sick. But hot and spicy Thai food is even better. That will clear your sinuses!
    So are you home now?

  4. I won't touch Thai food with a ten foot pole. I'm not an adventurous eater at all. I've always heard chicken soup is best when you are sick. And I am sick now but my cupboard is bare so I guess it's oatmeal till I get well.

  5. I hate split pea soup. But I was really sick one time and a friend made some with ham. I tell you I wolfed it down and felt better almost immediately.

    Blogging normalcy for me is Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Until April.

  6. I like Thai food, but when I'm sick, I prefer tomato soup.

  7. Hey Lee! I love Thai food, although my favourite soup is Vietnamese Pho. You can't go wrong with the spice in most Asian foods. Hope you're feeling better.

  8. Hope you feel better, Lee. I love Thai food. When I'm sick, tho', all I want is chicken noodle soup.

  9. Joss-- I normally like creamy soups, but when I'm sick they usually don't sound very good.

    Yvonne-- I'm feeling a little better this morning, but I'm debating whether or not to go to the doctor today. Still feel pretty yucky.

    Alex -- I got home Saturday night, but I've mostly been in bed. Still haven't finished unpacking our van.

    JoJo-- I've got some pretty bare cupboards right now as well. I need to do some shopping today if I can get out.

    Stephen Tremp-- Split pea soup has always sounded abhorrent to me until I tried it. Now I do like it pretty well, but it doesn't sound good now.

    L.Diane -- Mmmm! Tomato soup with grilled cheese is a childhood favorite of mine. I might be able to deal with that right now.

    Eve-- Asian foods use spices that can seem very healing.

    Karen - The noodles haven't been sounding so good, but I'll probably have some chicken broth today. So restorative.


  10. LEE ~
    "Chandler Road"? Are you kidding? That's too long a drive from my house on the West side of Phoenix!

    But you're coming from Los Angeles? Oh. Well... maybe I could make it if you give me enough advance notice.

    Yes, I like Thai food, but being a VegHead, I am pretty limited to what I can order from the average Thai menu. However, I can usually find something that doesn't include "dead animal".

    When I'm sick? Thankfully, it doesn't happen very often, but when it does... mostly just '7-Up' and very little food of ANY kind seems to help. (Old School 'Bubble Up' instead of '7-Up', if you can find it in your area.)

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  11. I've never had Thai food. The closest "foreign" food I've had has been Chinese but even that, I suspect, has been Americanized to appeal.

    It sounds like the strain of flu you have holds on awhile. Rest up.

  12. That soup looks good. I'd be willing to give it a try. When I've been sick in the past, a few of my favorite choices has been milk toast, chicken with stars soup, or the broth from won ton soup. Anymore, I think broth, dandelion root tea, or ginger tea would be the best choices for me.

  13. Interesting to find out what gruel actually is. Like you, I was picturing something truly awful.

    I hope you feel better soon and am sorry that you didn't get to enjoy your trip more due to being ill.

  14. The basic chicken soup is the thing that most studies show as the most beneficial.

  15. When I think of gruel, I, too, think of some disgusting concoction that isn't discernible from dirty mop water. I didn't realize it had an actual food property lol!

    I'm a chicken soup person when it comes to healing. When it's made from scratch, then that's even better.

    Glad you're on the mend and had a fairly great road trip despite the illness :-)

  16. Thai food, or any Asian food nowadays are not my friends. As I discover and delete foods that can spur an immediate and unrelenting migraine, grits sound mighty good to me.

  17. I love Thai food and where I live in Los Angeles County there are Thai "palaces" in every sector of the city. I tend to still go for the Won-Ton style chicken soups, but I think I'll try "your" soup upon recommendation. When I'm sick, I love matzo ball soup, if I can get my hands on it! :-)

  18. Hope you feel better. One of my sons suffered for a few days last week. He couldn't even keep water down for about 24 hours.
    Rest up and feel better.

  19. I once found a Tom Yum soup in a can at the local Asian shop, and it was shockingly good. I never expected something out of a can to be so spicy—fiery hot, and with chunks of lemongrass and ginger and all kinds of flavorful stuff. I went back and bought more, and then they never restocked it. Ever. I want MORE! Sure, I can get some at a Thai restaurant, but it was so handy having that stuff at home.

  20. For your future information, Perkins restaurants do oatmeal for breakfast and you can always change the consistency with milk.

    I too like Thai very much as well as Vietnamese Pho. Good British food is fine, but if that's all you eat, you are missing out on some of the great flavours of the world. Being of British descent I know what I am talking about.

  21. I forgot to add that one of my favourite soups is Chines Hot and Sour. I local Mandarin make a really good one.

  22. I love Thai food, but I've pretty much had to give it up because I can't have soy. Chinese food used to be my go-to food whenever I had flu-like issues, but I've had to mostly give that up because of soy issues. Now I think it's Mexican food - a shrimp burrito, or the chicken soup with cilantro and avocado.

    I hope you feel better soon!

  23. Here's to a quick and strong recovery, Lee! I'll have to check out that Thai place…a little outing with my husband, perhaps. We have some wonderful Thai places here in Mesa too. Still the adventure of traveling across the valley sounds like fun!

  24. Thanks for the additional comments. I've read them all but since I'm getting behinder and behinder I won't respond individually. Still struggling with my illness, but it is getting better.

    Thank you all.



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