Dawn Kessinger: Share a meal — Slaw soup from a comfort food cynic

I’d avoided it for a few years. But sometimes you aren’t always successful at dodging the colds and flus that run rampant where you live. I’ve never been good at dodgeball so I wasn’t surprised when I eventually got walloped.

It’s difficult to eat when all food tastes like cardboard and you hurt everywhere. Does “comfort food” really exist when you’re sick? If comfort food exists — I’m a skeptic — then I wish someone would enlighten me as to what it is and how to make it.

When I was a child, Mom made me chicken noodle soup when I was sick. I either had toast or crackers with it, and juice or some kind of clear pop. All of that is fine, but I don’t recall wanting to eat (or drink) any of it: It was simply one of those “No, you do not have a choice; just do it,” kind of things. I’ve always had a cranky stomach. I learned at a young age how much worse it was to take medicine on an empty stomach.

The limited but necessary menu for me when I was sick was okay. But I wouldn’t say it was comfort food; I didn’t crave any of it, though I didn’t mind the Popsicles. I was sick frequently when I was young; Mom brought me books and puzzles, which were more of a comfort than any food I stoically endured consuming.

As an adult, I not only don’t believe in fairy tales or happy endings; I also don’t believe in the existence of this “comfort food.” No one has ever given me any clues to his or her sure-fire, long-lasting comfort food — or even just a food that comforts briefly but brilliantly, like a firefly’s spark. Anyone care to share? I didn’t think so.

I eat a lot of fish and chicken. I’m not complaining; I like fish and chicken. But sometimes I want something different. During my last smackdown with a cold, I wasn’t even slightly interested in chicken noodle soup. I wasn’t completely disgusted by the idea of soup, though, so I decided to try some vegetable beef.

You wouldn’t think someone who’s being pummeled by a nasty cold would think to sneak an unexpected ingredient in the recipe. And I didn’t. My husband came up with the idea to put coleslaw in the soup.

At first I wondered if I’d heard him correctly, because I couldn’t hear at all out of one ear. Or maybe I was having a fever dream because I often have bad dreams when I’m ill: Slaw in soup did not sound remotely comforting OR good. But when I tried the first spoonful of steaming vegetable beef soup, the slaw didn’t repulse me at all. The fact that I couldn’t taste anything might have had something to do with it.

A few days later, when my sense of taste returned, I was still eating the slaw soup (with other vegetables and beef). I was surprised that it was good and I liked it enough to share. I’m not saying it was comforting. But it wasn’t horrible.

Slaw Soup (with vegetables and beef)


• 1 28-oz can beef (I used Keystone)

• 1 32-oz container chicken broth

• 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes

• 1 bag coleslaw — I used about a third of a 32-oz bag (if you’re not a big cabbage fan, try just a handful or two)

• 1 8-oz can mushrooms

• Any size can sweet corn (or use fresh/frozen)

• Sliced carrots

• Any size can green beans (or use fresh/frozen)

• Small can (the smallest you can find) peas


Any other vegetables you like or want to swap out for the above; 2 cups water (the soup is thicker and saltier if you want to go without it)

In a large Crock-Pot (or stock pot), add ingredients. Bring to a boil, then allow to simmer for an hour (or two, depending on your taste — providing illness hasn’t stolen it).

Want to share a meal with The Lima News readers? Send your recipe with your name, city of residence, phone number (won’t be published) and a photo of your meal to [email protected].