Real Cooking

I?ve had an annoying cough for the past three days. It?s one of those coughs that starts with a little tickle that won?t come under control with a strong ?ahem? or a drink of cold water. But it sits there in the back of my throat building energy until I find myself hacking like a veteran coal miner.

I don?t seem to have any other symptoms of illness?no fevered brow, no runny nose?just this stupid cough.

It?s interfering with my life. Everywhere I go now, I have to be equipped with a pocketful of throat lozenges or peppermint candies to suck on so I can at least sit through a sermon or manage a conversation without coughing up a lung.

If I have to raise my voice?forget it. I?m good for a good 15-minute cough-a-thon. A laugh will trigger it, too.

And we women who have carried a baby in our belly know what can happen when a too-full bladder and a deep cough are combined. Let?s just say I?m spending an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom these days.

If there is an upside to all of this, it has to be that my abdominal muscles are getting a good workout. If this condition persists, I may end up with ?abs of steel.?

Don?t worry, I?ve ruled out tuberculosis as well as whooping cough and bronchitis. In my medical opinion, which is untrained and often times invalid, I think I have a virus.

I came up with this diagnosis when, after suffering through a bout of uncontrollable coughing, I had the misfortune of complaining about my condition in front of my 10-year-old daughter.

?Do you want some cough medicine, Mom?? she asked.

?No, I hate the taste of that stuff and I don?t think it will really work anyway.?

?Well then, you?re going to have to suffer; there?s just not much we can do for you.?

?Thanks a lot,? I responded.

?I?m just telling you what you told me last week when I had a cough that wouldn?t go away.?

That?s right, I thought to myself. She did have a few days with a cough. I had probably forgotten because she hadn?t felt poorly enough to miss school or any other of her activities.

She hadn?t had a fever, there was no sign of infection?but she did have a dry hacking cough that would wake her at night. What a heartless mother I am, telling her to just suffer like that.

I guess it?s only justice that now I?m the one to bear the brunt of this latest go round of viral tag. I?m it for now?who will be next?

This morning, after the kids had left for school, I was standing at the kitchen sink having my morning coughing convulsion. I decided I really needed to get pro-active about the situation. What could I do to bring some relief?

I remembered how my mother would mix up a teaspoon of honey with about the same amount of lemon juice and then top that off with a good tablespoon or so of whiskey. Maybe I should try that, I thought.

One problem: we don?t have any whiskey.

But we did have a bottle of rum in the back of the pantry, behind the Crisco can and the extra bottles of salad dressing and olive oil. I had used it as a flavoring in one recipe or another and now I called it into use again?for medicinal purposes, of course.

I took out a spoon and poured a dose. Liquid fire hit the back of my throat and for a second took my breath away, but I have to admit, my cough subsided.

I just prayed that I didn?t get a call from the school asking me to come in to pick up one of my children. I didn?t want to have to explain why the Jost kids? mother smelled like a distillery at nine in the morning.

Stay well.

* * *

Chocolate Baba Cake with Rich Rum Cream

6 oz. semisweet chocolate

6 tbs. butter

1/4 cup sugar

3 eggs, separated

1/2 cup plus 2 tbs. ground almonds

3/4 cup fine fresh bread crumbs

Rum Cream:

3/4 cup heavy cream

3 tbs. dark corn syrup

1/4 cup rum (or 1/4 cup water with 1 tsp. rum extract)

Melt together the chocolate and the butter, stirring until melted. Stir in sugar and egg yolks; add 1/2 cup of almonds and the breadcrumbs.

Beat egg whites until stiff and then fold in about 1/4 of the chocolate mixture. Pour in remaining chocolate mixture and fold gently until completely combined. Butter an eight-inch springform pan and sprinkle with 2-tbs. ground almonds. Pour in batter. Bake for about 25 minutes at 375 degrees. The cake will not spring back and may appear slightly underdone. Cool one hour and then refrigerate. Chill completely before turning out of pan. Store cake and topping in refrigerator. To make topping, beat cream until stiff and then stir in corn syrup and rum, beating again to rethicken. Serves 10.

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