When asked about “cultural, familial”, comfort foods, I paused. As a native New Yorker of mixed backgrounds, I had to adapt my family's culinary traditions. I became a vegetarian at thirteen years old and many of the recipes that are ‘of my culture’ didn’t feel of my palate as I grew. Fifteen years later, I began eating fish again and while living in Italy realized that my favorite dish, “Spaghetti al Vongole” (Spaghetti with Clam Sauce) was a staple that my father made that I had loved growing up. Living internationally, I noticed that it was the simplicity of cuisine which calls to me – the appearance of the flavors and nutrients which speaks to a ‘home’ that, at times, cannot be named.
Something that remains consistent from my culinary upbringing and caretaking is how food is the source of healing. In our house, it is the first responder in re-setting our bodies – antibiotics and fever suppressors were regarded as a last resort. As a budding teenager, when I got my first cramps my mother gave me red raspberry leaf tea and other herb concoctions. In my adulthood and, especially, parenthood I have seeped more into the benefits of consistent herbal reinforcement and healing.
This Brazilian Cold & Flu Tea below, that I make whenever I feel a strong cold or immunity deficiency coming on, was what we were given whenever we got sick as kids. My great-grandfather was from Maranhao, in the north of Brazil, and this is of the few Brazilian dishes/ recipes introduced to me as a child. As soon as symptoms came on, a big pot was made and we were given this tea almost as a fast for at least the next 24 hours - whether we liked it or not.
Although my daughter has consumed the tea several times before, this was a beautiful exercise -- to teach her – at nine years old, what I learned to make (eyes watering, sinuses clearing in the process as well), maybe at thirteen years old before going off to boarding school.
The recipie can be modified to taste/ strength – the above is for approximately 1 gallon of water. Cut all ingredients and put in a large stew pot with filtered water. Boil at a consistent rate for at least an hour and let sit. Reheat to serve and after a few hours strain tea and place in glass containers if not consuming within the next 24 hours. Otherwise leave on stove and reheat as needed, adding water for the last ¼ batch. Happy Health