Thursday, January 31, 2008

Foods That Make You Sick, But You Eat Them Anyway

(Author's Note: Under normal circumstances, today's post would have been published Wednesday. I'll try to stay on track with the Wednesday food blog next week. Thank you for understanding.)

In honor of flu season and the spread of this mutant stomach virus, I thought it might be appropriate to find a way to discuss food and sickness at the same time.

If we were all completely honest, we have a mental list of foods that we know will make us sick, but we eat them anyway.

Sometimes, you just don't know. I once ate almost an entire basket of fried calamari in Atlanta, and by the next morning, I firmly believed that "ate almost an entire basket of fried calamari in Atlanta" would be scrawled across my death certificate. This is the one food I have vowed never to eat again.

Other foods get second, third, even infinite chances. Like:

* Anything from a place with the word "Wings" in its name. I once ate a salad at such a place and was grateful for the high density of hospitals in the area. How could a salad bring on a fever? And so suddenly? Still, I keep going back.
* Hot artichoke dip. This isn't an appetizer. This is a laxative. But when you gather 'round a table with friends, and there sits a ceramic bowl surrounded by pita chips, how can you say 'no'?
* Stuffed mushrooms. You wouldn't think that a fungus filled with salted butter and bread crumbs would make a person sick, but it's true. Still, if made properly, it's worth the pain and embarrassment.

OK. So those are my Top Three. I conducted an informal poll among my family members to see if they would like to contribute to the list. One of the more disappointing answers was this: "That soup you've been making a lot lately." What? San Antonio Tortilla Soup? How could that be?

Now, what I'm about to ask you to do is somewhat akin to asking, "Hey, this towel has gone sour, hasn't it?" Or, "I think this milk has expired. Smell it." But I'd like for you to try out this recipe when you get a chance, and let me know if it makes you or any of your family members sick. If it doesn't, then we have an isolated case. If it does, well, then, I'll not take it to my next Soup Night with friends.

San Antonio Tortilla Soup

1 T. oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 t. ground cumin (I don't even know what this is, so I omit it; maybe it's a nausea preventative, so you might want to try to find some)
2 14.5-oz. cans fat-free chicken broth
2 15-oz. cans stewed tomatoes
1 T. jalapeno pepper, minced (remove seeds to reduce heat; or, do as I do and skip the entire pepper; toss in some Frank's sauce or something; it can't possibly make that big of a difference)
1/4 t. black pepper
2 c. (about 1/2 lbs.) boneless, skinless chicken breast, uncooked and cubed
2 c. water

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker
Cover. Cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 4-6 hours.

Now, here's where I stray from the recipe and take a real risk: I add two cans of black beans. Maybe that's the problem. You tell me.

The official instructions go on to say that you can choose from exotic garnishes like sour cream and grated cheddar cheese. I personally think that's a little crass and smacks of a chili knock-off. So let's keep things simple and compare apples to apples: Yes to beans, no to garnishes.

Let me know ...