“…stings the nostrils”
A few years ago, when I was still living in Indianapolis, the winter was particularly evil. Especially around January and February when the ice storms hit and street snow turned into black ice sculptures with “foot” pock marks from repetitive pedestrian stepping. This was not a fun time for me. Nor has it ever been. Especially during this specific year when I spent my days working way up north and in the evening in the studio and classrooms, trekking around town wearing yoga tights with leg warmers and tanks under many many layers. But this year would be different. This would be the year I end up with the flu for the first time.
If you aren’t familiar with anything but the stomach flu, which was me up until this experience, then let me describe the feeling…the early symptoms are like a normal cold. When I start to get sick, I pump myself full of tea, cough drops and vitamins. Sometimes the ol’ garlic clove per day over the weekend when I am around NO-ONE (that’s the important bit) will do the trick, too. But it got worse after a few days, and I not only couldn’t smell, taste, or hear due to the stuffiness in my head and sinuses, but my body ached like I had been beaten up. I remember the 3rd day waking up feeling like I couldn’t move. Almost as if I’d taken all the hard, intense workouts I’d ever done, and compiled them all into one night, then laid down and woke up feeling all the effects at once. This was new. This was awful.
By day 4, I wanted to die. In fact, I remember calling into work, and then calling my mom to let her know how sick I was in case I actually did die. I seriously thought “This is it. This is how I am going to go. In my bed. Alone, with 4 mini packages of tissues from the dollar store and two rolls of toilet paper for backup mucous. Used tea bags in coffee mugs sporadically placed throughout my bedroom and kitchen, Alka-Seltzer Cold and Flu tab packs scattered across my floor. And the entire 7 seasons of Archer streaming on my Kindle, only watching it as I floated in and out of sleep. This was my end of days?! Good Lord, baby Jesus.
By day 5 I was surprised to see that even after laying in bed for the last few days, I still didn’t seem to feel much better. Keep in mind, at the time, I thought I just had some nasty cold, since I had only experienced the stomach flu and not actual influenza, so I had no idea why it wasn’t leaving. I didn’t have insurance at the time, but knowing my stubborn-ass I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor, even if I did…so I did what I normally do, and Googled my symptoms. This tidal wave of sick had to be nearing the end. I mean how long could this go on? I was eating properly, drinking plenty of water and resting like the dead for the past 3 days. Ugh. Go away, jerk!
By day 6, things started getting better though. I was able to grocery shop without feeling like I would pass out. My brain had been so out of it and I had a bad case of cabin fever, so getting out into the world again around people and in public felt really weird…the light hurt my skin and the smells in the grocery store, even though I couldn’t experience them fully, were making my stomach churn up some nasty bile and medicinal tea concoction. I was well enough to walk, but maybe my mind needed to adjust still.
As a result, I ended up purchasing some really random things. Of course more tissue, since my nose was so chafed from using cheap dollar store tissue and toilet paper for several days, but I also bought canned goods like the apocalypse was closing in. I got home and looked at my grocery bag and started to laugh. Sound barely came out of my mouth. Just a few huffy wheezes and of course my nose made a weird squeak, but at least I could smile at my ability to be supremely absent minded. In hind sight, I’m assuming that I bought canned food thinking it would be easier to make with less prep involved, but who really knows what I was thinking.
Some of the weird items I bought: A 4-pack of mini plastic ramekins, a can of frozen orange juice (IN THE DEAD OF WINTER), crayons markers and a purple shamrock plant. Yes guys and gals…do NOT shop while you have the flu.
Some of the more appropriate items I bought: canned beans, corn, tomatoes, hominy, green beans. Keep in mind that I never eat canned goods if I can avoid it. I like to buy 100 fresh and will buy dry beans most of the time. But I guess I thought I wouldn’t have the strength to cut, dice, chop or even tear up raw veggies.
When I unloaded everything I dropped a few more Alka Seltzer tabs into some water and my stomach began thundering…I hadn’t eaten in almost a day…and now that I was feeling better and able to move I was famished. I made my way into the kitchen and decided on soup. Initially my plan was to make vegan chili, the way my mom made it with noodles, but I didn’t have any noodles or ground veggie crumble. It still didn’t stop me from starting the chili recipe. Once I had gone too far to turn back, and realized I didn’t have all I needed, I improvised. I was so hungry, that I could’ve added bananas to it and still gulped it down. I minced the garlic, diced the onion, prepped all my seasonings and cooking oil. I opened the cans of tomatoes, black beans and corn. I searched my pantry and found a few tortillas that were still good, and sorted out a few decent cilantro leaves from my refrigerator. I didn’t have any avocados or limes, like this recipe calls for, but I decided that this would suffice for a sub-par tortilla soup. I added my ingredients in, simmering and tasting from time to time. Even though I wasn’t able to taste much, the chili powder did good, and I could feel it warming me from the inside out. To my surprise, not only did the spice clear up my sinuses, but it actually gave me a good amount of energy. Once the soup had cooled enough to eat, I didn’t use a spoon, I just slurped it out of a bowl, while finishing up my Archer marathon.
Day 7, I was well enough to go back to work even though the wet and broken mucous cough still sounded like death. But looking back, I believe that if I didn’t eat the soup, and settled on something else like delivery or something cold, I’d have probably still felt crappy the next day.
So yes this soup was, in a way, my knight in shining armor. But don’t feel like you need to be sick or have a sore throat to make it. It doesn’t even have to be cold weather to enjoy it if you love spicy, soupy goodness…enjoy this recipe and I’d like to know how yours turns out. Leave comments or shoot me a DM on the socials. Don’t be afraid to experiment on the seasonings or veggies either. That’s how recipes are made after all…just play with your ingredients and of course: taste everything all the time, even if your sense of taste is kaput…that chili powder will come through! 🌶
And by the way, I still have that purple shamrock plant.
Love and light to you, my hot little Betties 💋
Amazing Knight in Shining Armor Tortilla Soup
Ingredients for the soup
2 Tbsp cooking oil (veg or canola)
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 liter veg broth (4 cups)
1 28 oz can of tomatoes diced
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp dried oregano
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn kernels (canned or frozen)
3 Small corn tortillas (or 3 handfuls of tortilla chips/strips)
2 tbsp canola or veg oil (only if frying own tortillas — see instructions)
1 avocado, sliced
1 handful cilantro freshly chopped
2 limes, wedged
Instead of using oil for tortillas when frying, you can use Earth Balance butter, melted with a seasoning blend of your choose for a healthier alternative. I used about a Tbsp of butter and a tsp of this seasoning, which can be found here:
For the soup:
Add the oil to a large pot and put over medium-high head. When hot, add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions turn translucent and begin to brown
Add the vegetable broth, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 min until tomatoes are cooked through
Stir in black beans and corn. Cook an additional 5 minutes until hot
For the tortillas:
Cut the tortillas into small strips
Heat the oil in a pan and when hot, add the strips in a single layer.
Fry for 1 minute per side, flipping when the bottom is golden to fry the other side
Remove from pan and drain on paper towel
Serve soup topped with avocado, cilantro, and tortilla strips/chips and a squeeze of lime