I’ve spent the last couple of days in bed due to a bout with a stomach bug. Now that I’m feeling better, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned thus far about “foods for the infirm” here in Georgia.
Though advice on what I should or should not consume when suffering from a given ailment is often offered less as suggestion and more as heavenly dictate, I maintain that this particularly category of foods is highly culturally specific. In the United States, for instance, we have the BRAT Diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. This will not do in Georgia. Bananas were the stuff of myth here until fewer than 20 years ago, I’ve never seen applesauce in this country (either for sale or homemade), and nobody I know owns a toaster.
Instead, people turn to soup, potatoes, and mineral water. (Georgia is well known in the countries of the former Soviet Union for its numerous mineral springs, which have been purported to cure everything from tuberculosis to leprosy.) Georgian moms brew kompot for their ailing children: fruit boiled down in water and sugar to produce a hot, natural Kool-Aid. My current favorite is apple-peach, but I’ve also had pear-plum and Cornelian cherry-flavored varieties.
I was counseled against eating dairy products as well as anything oily, spicy, or sour. “That means no tomatoes, eggplants, or mushrooms!” my co-teacher Valya informed me when she called to check up on me this morning. “They contain a sourness that our stomachs do not like!’ I could see her finger waving at me from the other end of the line. “What you need is buckwheat!” she added. “Boiled in a just a little milk!” I heard her elderly mother cry in the background.
I tried googling “what do Japanese people eat when they get sick” to see if I could get a cross-cultural comparison going, but all that turned up was reports of those “sick Japan people” consuming dead babies.
So I’m turning to you, readers: what advice have you received from locals while traveling or living abroad on what to eat or avoid when you’re sick?