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Cooking for the Choir: Restorative Recipes (Yes, really!)

We all know that hydration is crucial for healthful singing and vocal stamina, but even the most conscientious water-drinkers may find their vocal mechanisms in need of a little TLC after the rigors of Christmas, Theophany or Holy Week. Water and vocal rest are helpful here, but the following simple remedies are effective additions to any vocal self-care regimen.

Before we get to the recipes, I want to clear up a common misconception that's a pet peeve of mine: food and water do not pass through the vocal folds on their way to the stomach. Anything other than air passing through the vocal folds causes choking, and with good reason: food particles or droplets of beverages that get into the lungs can cause a fatal infection, so the larynx seizes up to prevent this. Cool water does feel soothing when the throat is inflamed, but the actual hydration happens after the liquid enters the stomach and spreads throughout the body.

Now, here are some of my go-to restorative treats:

By Hoesik Winha Utra - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Ginger tea. You can buy this at most grocery stores, and it's great! Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory that soothes irritated oral membranes. It's also highly effective for nausea. If you can't find commercial ginger tea, you can make your own by mixing 1/3 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 tablespoon minced ginger root into a mug of warm or hot water (you can also mix it into juice, if you prefer). If you take anti-coagulant medications, take ginger with caution, as large amounts can thin the blood.

Tomatoes, lemons and limes. I personally find that sliced raw tomatoes help cut through excess mucus and congestion. Lemons are helpful for the same reason. I, a psychopath, enjoy eating sliced raw lemons and limes (hehe), but most people prefer to squeeze these fruits into some ice water, perhaps with some sweetener mixed in.

Alasam/Creative Commons

Monster brew. This is the most effective vocal restorative I know, but fair warning: it's an acquired taste that produces truly monstrous breath. You're going to want to brush your teeth and tongue very thoroughly after this one.

  • Fill a medium pot with water and set it over medium-high heat. Turn on that kitchen fan!

  • Add a large pinch of red pepper flakes (optional, but recommended).

  • Dice a medium whole ginger root and add it to the pot. Peeling is unneccessary, as you'll be straining out the solids later.

  • Add 2-3 tablespoons minced garlic and the juice of 2 lemons.

  • Stir thoroughly. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

  • Add 1/4 cup agave nectar, brown rice syrup or barley malt syrup. If you don't have any of these, you can use white sugar, brown sugar or another sweetener of your choice.

  • Simmer for another 10 minutes, at least.

  • Take the pot off of the burner and let it cool for several minutes.

  • Strain out the solids.

  • Taste the mixture and add more sweetener and/or lemon juice to suit your taste.

  • Drink hot or warm, diluting with water if desired. You can also enhance this with warm brandy or cognac, if you're fancy.


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