A Cold Remedy From The Home Office

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This is my fourth day sick in bed. Some sort of hardcore cold, a sinus infection – it’s hard to tell, other than it’s made me feel rotten, barely able to drag myself out of bed, let alone the house. As much as I craved fresh berries, leafy greens, and chicken noodle soup, I have had to live off eggs (scrambled), pancakes (flour, egg and water) and whatever veg I could find in the freezer. At least being ill has curbed my appetite, because that’s one hell of a boring menu.

Meanwhile, I had an appointment with the Passport Office on day three of aforementioned illness. I wanted to rain check, but, like much of my experience with Home Office Things, nothing is straightforward. It was too late now; I was past the requisite notice period to reschedule, so calling in sick would risk delaying – or cancelling – my application altogether. And so, I knocked back some Sudafed and Advil and dragged myself to the Passport Office.

As I sat in the mostly deserted waiting room, I eavesdropped on staff members leaning on the reception desk, discussing one’s favourite lamb korma and how renowned he was around the office for bloody going on about it; another talked about his wife’s latest baking efforts – biscuits of semolina, almonds and orange zest. Visions of spicy curries and warm homemade biscuits offered momentary distraction from my pounding headache.

Before I could hear more I was called to cubicle number 37 (my lucky number – I figured that bodes well), where I was greeted by my officiator, one Mr Krish – a chap so laid back he was almost horizontal in his leather chair. He enquired after my weekend and I told him I’d spent the whole thing sick in bed. Mr Krish sat up. He looked concerned. My personal history was set aside as he began a long tale of a nostalgic family cold remedy. I am not exaggerating in telling you that most of my interview was spent being walked through his mother’s recipe for a reviving drink of sugar, egg, brandy and coffee.

“You’ve got to really whisk that egg and sugar,” he said, nodding seriously, gesturing the bowl and whisk with his hands, while I silently wondered if this was a test.
“Right. Whisk the egg and sugar.”
“And you need to pour the brandy into the mixture before you put the coffee in.”
“OK, got it.”
“Do you have brandy?”
“No, I only have whisky, but I’ll have to pick up some brandy and give this a go,” I told him.
“I like you,” he said, leaning back in his chair. “You like food and whisky.” He gave me an approving nod.
I wondered if this was going on my record.

Food and drink really is a universal language between strangers. I love that. It’s the ultimate unifier. You can live entirely different lives to someone and still have eating in common. You could meet a person who never cooks or doesn’t have a great interest in food, but at the end of the day, they still have to eat. There is always an interesting conversation to be had and something new to learn.

This morning I woke up feeling like microwaved road-kill again, but at least my venture Out Of The Flat meant I’d had a chance to pick up some supplies (fresh fruit and veg!) including a wee bottle of brandy. The question was, could I remember Mr Krish’s recipe?

I chucked two heaped tablespoons of sugar into a bowl, cracked in an egg and beat it thoroughly with an electric whisk. Then I poured in half a miniature of brandy. I kept whisking. Meanwhile, I had an Aeropress of coffee on the go. Once the brandy mixture was fluffy, I poured in the coffee, whisked very briefly, and poured it into a glass.

Well, who knows if my interview was approved – or if my keenness for whisky gave me an advantage – but even if not, at least I have this drink to comfort me. Food and drink really is a universal people passport.

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