What do vegans eat when they’re sick?

Honestly, the title is a bit misleading. I have no idea what other vegans eat when they are sick – I only know what I eat when I’m sick.

So why write this post at all? Because I haven’t come across much talk about it, and in the face of all the prescriptions for chicken soup or ‘a bit more iron’ and the like from well-meaning friends/family/strangers I thought I’d share what I do, and why.

Why now? Because I’m sick with a cold, which feels like it is turning into a sinus infection. So sickness-eating is on my mind.

This is how this vegan feeds a cold.

When I feel like I’m getting sick

When I start to feel a little off, or when I’ve been surrounded by sick people, or when the train carriage starts to sound like a chorus of coughs, I tend to amp up the amount of zinc-foods and spices in my life.

Increasing zinc means I turn to garlic, seeds, oats, and legumes. I have two favourite zinc recipes; a pasta dish, and porridge.

Over time and lots of travel I have cultivated very broad ideas of what counts as a breakfast food. I think  the following recipes are acceptable breakfasts when I’m trying to end off a cold (and at any other time), but if you have more conventional breakfast leanings, leave these recipes for later in the day.

Zincy porridge

  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tbs sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbs wheatgerm
  • 1 apple
  • 1 tbs chia seeds
  • your choice of sweetener (I like agave or maple syrup)
  • about 1/2 cup soy milk

This is easy. Cook the porrdige in some water. Toast the sunflower seeds and wheatgerm (I do it in a non-stick pan with no oil, but I know others use the oven). Chop the apple. Put everything in a bowl and eat it.

You can skip the toasting part, but I read somewhere that you’ll absorb more zinc if you toast.

Garlic pasta (sort of like aglio e olio)

  • 3/4 cup dry spelt pasta (doesn’t have to be spelt, I just like it)
  • olive oil (choose your own adventure with the amount – I like a lot)
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic (or as much as you can handle)
  • 2 tbs sunflower seeds
  • 2 tb pumpkin seeds (the green ones)
  • 1 tbs chopped almonds
  • 1 tbs pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 2 tbs nutrional yeast
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt
  • optional – chilli flakes, pepper, chopped herbs

This is also easy, despite the long ingredients list. Cook the pasta and peas (I chuck the peas into the pasta when it’s boiling, about half way through). While it is cooking, fry the garlic (only a little), and toast all the seeds and nuts together in a dry non-stick pan. Then dump it all into a bowl and season.

Breakfast popcorn (yes, you read that right)

  • canola oil
  • popcorn kernels
  • Keen’s curry powder (or other spices and turmeric)
  • white pepper
  • nutritional yeast
  • salt
  • Cholula hot sauce

I haven’t included amounts because I don’t know them. I make this nearly every week, but I don’t think I’ve ever measured. I just make the popcorn in the oil in a saucepan (keep the lid on, take off heat quickly when the pops slow to fewer than 2 per second). The really important thing is to put the popcorn into a bowl, and stir the  curry powder through ASAP while the popcorn is still very hot – it cooks the bitter flavours out that way. After the curry is mixed through add the pepper, yeast and salt (in that order – trust me, it matters).

Then, as you are eating, add a tiny but of cholula at a time. If you put a lot on and leave it, your popcorn will get soggy.

This recipe does not keep – only make an amount you can eat in one sitting. Also, I suggest eating it with a spoon, so your fingers don’t get stained from the turmeric in the curry powder.

Once I am definitely sick

Once I am sick I tend to vacillate between two food extremes: eat all the comforting stodge, and eat mostly soup. Also, I drink a LOT of tea.

Right now I am definitely on the soup bandwagon. Today I made vegetable soup, with home-made quick stock.

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You can change the vegetables in my recipe to match whatever you have in the fridge, this soup is not fussy. Just make sure you sort your diced veg into cooking times – So put your carrots, parsnips, turnips in one bowl, starchy veg in another, and very soft veg like zucchinis or mushrooms in another, to be added over time. Tomatoes always get added at the end, because their acidity prevents the other vegetables from cooking thoroughly.

Basic vegetable soup with homemade stock

For the stock I just dump everything together wiht some water, and simmer it until it is brown and flavourful. I use the end bits of vegetable from the soup such as:

  • carrot tops and peels
  • pumpkin skins
  • potato skins
  • celery leaves

plus:

  • onion skins
  • fresh thyme
  • fresh lovage
  • wilted lettuce leaves (only the crisp lettuces, never the soft ones – they get bitter)

and optionally:

  • ginger peelings (I added these today)
  • tomato cores (or whole tomatoes)
  • mushroom stalks
  • parsnip skins
  • turnip skins
  • any other veg offcuts on hand
  • salt

For the soup:

  • a tiny bit of olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 2 small sprigs lovage (I didn’t have celery)
  • 2 small potatoes, diced
  • 2 handfulls of green beans, cut into small pieces
  • about 1.5 cups pumpkin, diced
  • 1 large zucchini, diced

First put the stock on to boil. Turn it down to a simmer, and cook for at least 30 miutes (and up to several hours, depending on the size of your pot).

Fry the onion in a small amount of oil until it is soft – at least 5-10 minutes. Add the carrots and lovage, and add 3 cups of cold water. Bring to the boil with the lid on.

Once the carrots are beginning to soften, add the potatoes and green beans and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add the rest of the vegetables, and simmer until they soften. Take off the heat.

Strain the stock and check the flavour. I added some salt to mine.

Add the stock to the soup, and serve.

I served mine with scones today, but it’s fine with bread or without any accompanyment.

I am a big fan of soups. Here are a few of pictures of soup I’ve made for this blog. Click the ‘soup’ tag at the bottom of the blog for recipes.

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