Friday, January 1, 2010

In Praise of Gruel


The very best thing about last week?  Gruel.

Let me explain.  Friday was Christmas.  On Saturday, after long and careful thought, I said aloud, "I think I'm coming down with something."  Sunday, the illness was a minor irritation until that night when everything fell in on me.  Monday, my biggest accomplishment was eating a piece of toast.

Then on Tuesday, I started getting better.  So much better that I was capable of eating gruel.  Dear God, you have no idea how delicious gruel can be when you've had all of two slices of toast over the past day-and-a-half.  I ate an entire mug of it in one sitting.  Feeling like one of the Saints feasting in Heaven: simple, joyful, grateful.

Wednesday I was able to go around the corner to the post office.  I came home dizzy and triumphant and collapsed on the couch for an hour and slept.  Thursday, I was able to write again -- only a brief book review, but the first thing I'd written since falling ill.  And today, I'm going to visit Gardner Dozois and Susan Casper briefly.

So the entire week has been a process of things just getting better and better.  You can see where it's been a good one for me.

But, oh man, that gruel!  Wonderful stuff.  I'll treasure the memory of that first cup forever.

Above:  A snapshot of me in the tub, taken by Marianne, showing how much better I am now.  I shaved for the occasion.



David Stone said...

I once ate at a restaurant in China that served almost nothing but gruel (well, the word can also be translated as "porridge")- they had dozens if not hundreds of different gruels on their menu, mostly based on different kinds of rice with added meat, legumes, nuts, fruit, etc. It was great, too! If there is such a thing as gourmet gruel, it can be found in China for sure.

Michael Swanwick said...

The next time I go to China, fingers crossed, I'm going to have to ask you for detailed advice. That restaurant sounds wonderful. Not that any of the restaurants I ate at in Chengdu were anything less.

My gruel, incidentally, was jasmine rice in a mixture of vegetable and chicken broth. It is GOOD to be married to an extraordinary cook.

Pebble Texture said...

Trend-O-Meter Says: Upscale Congee Is In (6/5/09)

Congee, a.k.a. jook, the Asian rice porridge much loved as a cheap comfort food (and hangover cure) is making the move from Styrofoam bowls to upscale restaurants.

Spotted: in Philadelphia at Chef Jose Garces’ Cantonese/Peruvian hybrid restaurant Chifa with glazed veal cheeks, Chinese broccoli, and red chile...

David Stone said...

MMmm veal cheeks.

I imagine that when you visit Sichuan again, Mike, you can just invite a couple of local friends to breakfast at a place that has good porridge and other breakfast foods, and they can hook up you with some posh gruel. I don't think it would be hard to find.

And when people back home ask, you can answer the age old question of "if Chinese restaurants [in the US] don't serve breakfast, what do Chinese people eat for breakfast"?