Quinn on Nutrition: Comfort food for critical conditions

November 24, 2014

Comfort food takes on a whole new meaning when life throws a curve. I didn’t think about that when I jumped on a plane to New Mexico after learning that my sister was hospitalized in critical condition. I did think about it when my other sister and I spent the next two weeks waiting, praying, eating and sleeping as best we could.

Sometimes just a cup of coffee is soothing. Geri, a sweet nurse in ICU, brought me a cup as we sat by our sister’s bedside. The next day, my worried soul agreed with the hand-written "thank you" penned on a sign in the hospital cafeteria that read, "Coffee is free." 

When we left the hospital at the end of each day, we would stare at each other and ask, "What do you feel like eating?" Knowing my go-to comfort food when I visit my native New Mexican happens to be green chile cuisine, my sister complied. After about the third day, she suggested a salad would be nice. I agreed.

Besides getting a good night’s sleep, we soon understood that eating regular meals kept us going through critical conditions. And being away from our usual physical activity, we tried to opt for lighter fare…most of the time.

But knowing the days would be long, we didn’t skimp on breakfast. From fresh fruit and homemade granola at the Mauger B&B in downtown Albuquerque (tell ’em Barbara sent you) to the comfort of green chile scrambled eggs at the Sheraton Uptown (tell ’em Barbara sent you), we were well-fueled each morning for what the day would bring.

Lunches became "we need a salad" adventures. And most restaurants, we found, feature great varieties these days. Many came with grilled fish or chicken to add much-needed protein to our weary bodies. And I was pleased to see kale, brussels sprouts and other not-usual salad combinations to keep us interested in getting our veggies.

As our sister began to improve, we splurged on a couple of celebratory meals…because we needed to. We sought out Villa di Capo in downtown Albuquerque — where our dad used to take our family in our youth. The familiar surroundings and flavorful Italian food were true comforts.

It’s true we eat for more reasons that nutrition. During critical times, food nourishes the soul as much as the body. Which was my reason for a plate of green chile enchiladas at Papa Felipe’s restaurant as we got into week two of my sister’s recovery.

And (just sayin’) the sweet potato and green chile relleno with corn, black beans and grilled vegetables at the ABQ Grill sent my comfort food to a whole new level.

Thankful for the prayers and support that brought our sister through, it was time to return to our lives again. As she drove me to the airport, my other sister joked that we had eaten at every restaurant in Albuquerque. Well, not quite.




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