Dealing Gingerly with Illness

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett

For me, ginger ale equals comfort. As children, my sister and I rarely got to drink cokes (as we call any soda in the South, i.e., “You want a coke with that? What kind, root beer, Cheerwine, Sprite?”). We had two chances: illness and travel, both thanks to my father.

Daddy, a Nebraskan of German descent, seems made up of opposites. A tall, imposing man, one look from him, one “Sharon Lynn!” could set me to quaking, knowing I’d disappointed him. He’s also totally silly, eminently huggable, and, relatively speaking, the pushover of my parents.

My mind’s picture of my father always has him in a coat and tie, even though he wears those far less often now. As I drive around my university town, I’m struck by how casual professors look (and much less impressive), compared to my father in his teaching days. Even in a simple sweater and slacks, he still seems to loom over me and my children — and still reduces them to giggles with some silly turn of a phrase.

Whenever I got sick, I knew I’d get sympathy from Daddy. (My mother, also loving and caring, knew where to draw the line when we started milking an illness a bit too much.) He’d buy me a bottle of ginger ale, hold my forehead in his big hand, and soothe me with his presence.

And when it came time to load up the camper for a trip, we knew he’d come through with 7-Up. It was never as good, though, as the ginger ale.

These days, I drink it on two similar occasions: on an airplane, and when ill. And, socked with a knockout virus the past two weeks, I’ve been drinking gobs of ginger ale. Oddly, it’s one of the few foods that still tastes right to me.

Before I grasped just how sick I was, I got a cappuccino on a “coffee date” with my son. It was, I thought, the worst cup I’d ever had. Days later, I realized my tongue was the problem: The pancakes I made when I started to feel better seemed chemical-bitter and salty, clementines tasted tinny, an attempt at a burger was simply bizarre, and blueberries, which my children downed by the bowlfuls, felt flat and astringent.

But oh, the ginger ale. I think I’ve survived on that 2-liter bottle, cold, tingly and rightly flavorful. All I’ve missed is Daddy’s hand on my forehead.

Seeing the light at the end of the viral tunnel, I’m determined, as soon as I can stop my weeble-wobble imitation, to get some ginger syrup in the fridge. I’ve loved my Canada Dry, but even better is fresh ginger syrup and a bottle of club soda. Homemade “ginger ale” from those two, plus a squirt of lemon or lime juice, really will cure what ails me.

Recipe: Ginger Syrup

Tell me: What’s your illness comfort food?

One Response to “Dealing Gingerly with Illness”

  1. James says:

    Chocolate. When I’m down, the sugar/caffiene/whatever from chocolate always gives me a boost to keep going.

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