How to prepare yourself for cold + flu season before everything hurts and no one will cover your shift.
It’s that time of the year when there is a bone-chilling crisp in the air, russet leaves line the sidewalks and everyone is getting sick. Working in restaurants, we don’t always take time for self-care, but taking a few moments to prepare for the inevitable is paramount to surviving the season. Here, we compare the five tastiest cold-cures and put their healing powers to the test.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the better part of this millennium, Emergen-C is a powdered antioxidant drink that boosts your immune system and enhances energy. It is jam-packed with high doses of B Vitamins, Vitamin C and of course, sugar. When mixed with water, Emergen-C is deliciously sweet with a gentle fizz that tickles your nose as you sip. It also comes in eight different flavors and even gummies –you can choose a flavor profile that fits your mood. Super Orange Emergen-C tastes like drinking watered down Tang and orange rinds out of a salty seashell, but in a good way. Perfect for that server who forgets to ring in a table’s order and has to ask the Chef to make it on the fly.
Echinacea, a fragrant perennial revered by indigenous tribes, containing a copious amount of healing properties. It can be made into essential oils or herbal supplements – or the leaves can be infused with hot water, creating a tea. It helps to stimulate healthy immune responses and prevents inflammation, becoming a rich source of antioxidants and temporarily relieves aches + pains. Also known to decrease that overwhelming feeling of sadness and anxiety, most likely brought on by having to split a check 18 ways while getting triple-sat. Echinacea feels healthy without being too medicinal in flavor, it’s fruity and floral with a bite of sharpness. Feel free to add a dash of oregano oil for a woody yet antimicrobial boost.
The beauty of the toddy comes from its ability to convey the feeling of being at home wrapped in a soft blanket watching Netflix. This beverage is great – with booze or without – both having therapeutic qualities. Whether figuratively or literally, it’s open to debate. There are many variations but my favorite is the one that a bartender at my very first restaurant job made for me. I was in awe watching her make this mocktail one day when I came in sick as a dog (I later found out it was actually walking pneumonia and I definitely should not have come in). I was a wide-eyed newbie in a fast-paced world, this was alchemy and she was curing me with her magical potion. It really wasn’t much – just a lot of ginger, a little honey, and some lemon juice – but it saved my life. I will never forget the first sip…full-bodied flavor, aromatic, juicy, sweet with a slight piquant. It was amazing. Virgin toddies as a mid-shift power up will help re-invigorate your spirit so you can jump back on the pass as soon as Chef calls for hands.
A Vietnamese herbaceous bone broth soup that I feel cures all my woes – whether a deadly virus, the worst hangover or just depressed that I’m in the middle of back-to-back double shifts during the busiest weekend ever. It’s aromatic, earthy, grassy, and succulent. The thick dollops of fat that melted off the bones as it slowly simmered lays like oil slicks on the surface. Bites full of fresh basil, sawtooth, and bean sprouts with tender filets of brisket and steak against the slippery softness of the rice noodles. Pho is the quintessential form of relaxation and comfort in a bowl of soup. The broth is light and rejuvenating which makes it easy to down en route to work a crazy Friday night, without bogging you down with a food-induced coma.
Obviously, don’t drink before work – but when you’re finally done with all your side-work, checked out with your MOD and ready to sit to enjoy that well deserved shift drink, I recommend whiskey. Better known as Grandpa’s cold medicine, nothing makes you forget how much your body is failing you than whiskey. More likely a better way to warm up when the temperatures drop than containing any actual healing properties, whiskey supposedly helps ease nasal congestion and the pain of sore throats. A little bit goes a long way for this cure, but try telling that to the line cook who’s alternating between sips of cheap whiskey and even cheaper beer.
Hopefully, these cure-alls will help you survive these unforgiving winter months, but I’m no doctor – I just worked the floor for a long time. As hard as we try to keep our restaurants clean, sicknesses get passed around more than a cocktail list on a big top. My final word of advice is to keep some hand sanitizer nearby and chug a tall glass of your favorite cold cure remedy.