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Recipes, Seasonal, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Bedrest and Rice Porridge

Ah, November. Long have I awaited your biting winds and brilliant red leaves.

Remember last month, when I told October to go die of pneumonia? Any guesses as to who actually came down with pneumonia after that post? Yep, that would be me.

After a few days of high temperatures and a cough, I finally convinced myself to go to the hospital. This turned out to be the right decision. They gave me a CT scan and a blood test (after which I fainted and had to be lifted onto a stretcher by the nearby nurses), and five hours later sent me home with antibiotics and an order for bedrest.

Pneumonia aside for a moment, about this bedrest thing. What is this? Some depressing 18th century novel? Who actually stays in bed for an entire week these days? I asked myself this as I laid on the couch this Saturday, watching the rain fall. After taking the cold medicine prescribed by the doctor, my fever was gone, and the coughing was only occasional. Why, it’s almost as if I’m not even sick!

Bolstered by this thought, I actually went out yesterday. This weekend, the Kaga Million Square Dance Circle (of which I am a member – but that’s another story) was hosting their first party in eight years, bringing well over 100 men and women in outrageous costumes from all over the country to dance in our own, humble, home prefecture of Ishikawa. It’s sort of a big deal, and I’ve been looking forward to it for months. I had called in sick when I got the diagnosis, but surely it wouldn’t hurt to make a short appearance.

I didn’t have to go as far as the dance hall to discover that I was, indeed, sick. Climbing the ramp from the parking lot to the entrance was enough. I went in anyway, and thoroughly enjoyed watching a few dances from the sidelines. The women’s dresses are colorful with petticoats that seem to define gravity, and the men all wear bolo ties over their fringed shirts. Again, square dancing in Japan is definitely a topic that deserves further exploration – but that’s a topic for another day.

Back to this bedrest thing. Now resigned to the fact that I will probably spend the next few days in bed, I’ve tried to come up with a list of necessities:

1. Gray, dark, rainy weather

Thank goodness for the weather. As long as it's not sunny, I won't feel like such a lameface for staying inside and partaking of the other sick-person indulgences listed below.

2. Video games

An oddly comforting way to kill time.

3. Hot drinks

Hot water, lemon, honey and freshly grated ginger. My fiance rocks.

4. Okayu

Not only have the bacteria robbed me of my freedom, but also of my appetite. Easy on the stomach, okayu is the perfect food for a cold.

Okayu is a kind of porridge, made by cooking rice with lots and lots of water. The ultimate in Japanese comfort food, mildly salted okayu is easy on the stomach and is common fare for people with colds, babies and the elderly. Think chicken soup, but with the versatility of plain white rice. It’s usually flavored with salt as a base, but other common additions include miso, pickled plums, ginger, greens and chopped leeks. Adding a whisked egg, fish (such as salmon or tuna), or meat can make for a more substantial, even sophisticated meal.

Okayu a la my fridge: a teaspoon of miso, with parsley and pickled plums.

The first time I was sick enough that someone actually made this for me, I was a little put out, but I’ve since come around. Made with fresh vegetables and some brown rice, it’s definitely better for a sick body than Campbell’s.

If you have a Japanese rice cooker, it’s likely that it has an おかゆ setting. If not, there are a number of recipes online (see this one, for example). In general, the ratio of rice to water is somewhere from 1:6 through 1:12, depending on your desired consistency. I figure it’s better to make it too thick and water it down later than to end up with soup, but I leave that decision to you.

Now, about that resting thing…



3 thoughts on “Bedrest and Rice Porridge

  1. Oh, dear. I hope you feel (totally) better soon!

    That okayu does look pretty tasty. Any thoughts on making it with brown rice? (MORE water?)

    Posted by odorunara | November 7, 2011, 12:44 pm
    • I’m glad you asked that question! The second batch we made was with the 1:6 ratio, using about half brown, half white rice. It came out surprisingly watery. Cooking it again on the stove over low heat for awhile probably would have helped with this, but I also concluded that brown rice just doesn’t fall apart and get all sticky in the way that white rice does. For this reason, it might be recommendable to use LESS water than normal if you wanted to try it with all brown rice… and maybe consider the stove-top method, rather than the rice cooker.

      Posted by cheruko | November 7, 2011, 1:01 pm

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