I caught a cold this week.
I should have known it was going to happen. After I'd found out I was denied health coverage for two minor pre-existing conditions two weeks ago, I'd been foaming at the mouth about how healthy I am.
"I eat quinoa for breakfast!" I sputtered to my mom, my brother, the person in line behind me at Whole Foods.
"I can do a Level 2 Bar Method class without even breaking a sweat!" I continued, flexing my tricep to demonstrate how "big" and impressive my minuscule muscles are.
"I can't even remember the last time I was sick!" I finished with pride.
As soon as the words had parted from my lips, I was hit with a flashback to the last time I'd made a bold declaration. A seemingly harmless comment about how much I loved my $50 hand-painted porcelain teapot and lived in fear that it would break one day. And then the next day, it did.
The cold smashed down on me this past Sunday night, leaving me weak and sprawled out on my bed with a box of tissues and blurry, stinging eyes. I was, of course, in denial it was happening.
"I'll fight it off!" I thought as I downed Zicam chewables like M&Ms and brewed pot after pot of tea. Determined to prove that I was not a sickly person, I forced myself to go to the gym the next morning, refusing to believe that a few germs could get the best of me.
"I eat quinoa for breakfast," I reminded myself as I wheezed through my bike workout.
By the time I got to my office that morning, I couldn't go more than five minutes without reaching for the tissue box. My face was pale, my head ached and it was an effort to just sit up straight. I knew then that it was over. I was sick.
While I hated feeling and looking like I was auditioning for a role on "The Walking Dead," I took full advantage of the opportunity to dramatize every aspect of my disease. If I had to be sick, I was going to make the most of it -- making sure that everyone around me was well aware that my immune system had been compromised. This was a dire situation.
Meanwhile, I was relishing the excuse to be a gross and disgusting person. I stopped working out, I wore the same pair of jeans to work for four days, I watched "Kourtney and Kim Take on New York," I let the tissues pile up in unsightly wads on the floor of my apartment, and I whined. I whined a lot.
And then after the whining got old, I made soup.
Of all the perks of being sick (the sympathy, the insta-diet, the ability to sit on the couch doing nothing for hours on end), soup is the best part. In that congested achy state, nothing tastes as good as a steaming bowl of hot noodly broth, or in the case of this recipe, a cuddly crock of yellow split peas. Hearty, but not overbearing, this is the type of soup that comforts and sustains.
Even when one's immune system hasn't been compromised. Even in non-dire situations. Even for the healthiest person on a planet on an perfectly ordinary, average day.
Yellow Split Pea Soup
Adapted from Food & Wine
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for serving
3 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup port wine
2 teaspoons mustard powder
1 1/3 cup split peas, picked over and rinsed
6 cups of water
2 tablespoons Better than Bouillon vegetable base
Freshly ground pepper
Heat a large soup pot over medium high heat. Once hot, add the tablespoon of olive oil, swirling to coat the base of the pot. Add the leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened and leeks are taking on a melty consistency. (Approximately 10 minutes.) Add the port wine, and let boil for a minute or two, scraping up any of the caramelized bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Stir in the dry mustard and cook for 1 minute. Add the split peas, water and vegetable base, and season to taste with pepper. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, and adding additional water as needed.
When the split peas are tender (will take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half)), ladle out approximately a fourth to a third of the soup into a different container. Using an immersion blender, puree the rest of the soup until smooth in consistency. Return chunk bits to the pot and stir to combine. Bring back up to just under a boil before serving. Finish with a swirl of good quality olive oil and dusting of pepper.