The sickies suck.

The last few weeks I was struck with the killer death flu that was going around, feeling like a soppy puddle of muck, subsisting mostly on vitamins, steamed vegetables, eggs and medication whenever I came down from my hazy fever long enough to feed myself.

I also had a raging cough and sore throat, which I soothed with an old family recipe--a hot brew made from sweet potato and ginger, with rock sugar added for sweetness.

This drink is simple enough for even someone in a feverish, drippy delirium to make.

- 1 large (or 2 small sweet potatos or yams--I like the ones with really orange flesh), washed and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
- 1 medium sized piece of ginger root (more or less, depending on your taste), cut into a few segments
- a piece of rock sugar (if it's a big piece, feel free to smash it into smaller chunks)

So, just throw all of these in a small pot of boiling water (4 cups or more) and simmer for an hour. This sweet, gingery drink can also be spiced with a stick of cinnamon, which helps digestion.

I'm not a fan of ginger in general, but I resort to this brew because it always manages to relieve my sore throat and help ease my coughing. Ginger in folk medicine is used to treat nausea and colds, has been shown to relieve general pain and is antibacterial. Sweet potato has vitamin C, B6 and betacarotene (the orange-fleshed ones have more of the latter) and helps stabilize blood sugar.

You can also sweeten the drink with honey, but I always remembered my grandma using rock sugar. Rock sugar has a milder sweetness than regular white sugar. Both honey and rock sugar help soothe the throat.

I made the mistake of initially drinking honey lemon tea when I got sick and I ended up irritating my throat more every time I had more citrus. I'm not sure what the science is behind it, but I remember being told by my Chinese family members to avoid anything citrus when you have throat issues, and they were right. Anyone know why this is?