For Flu Season: The Top 5 Comfort Foods and Drinks

It's official: flu season is here and it's hit with a vengeance. Television news reports deliver frightening messages from the Director of Health and Human Services while we're forced to watch Matt Lauer get a flu shot on the Today Show, and our moms keep calling us to remind us to get plenty of rest and not to share drinks with the other kids in the office.

So while we're slathering ourselves in Purell and homeopathic elderberry tinctures in what will surely be a futile effort to keep the swine flu at bay, here's a list of our favorite comfort foods and drinks for when the flu inevitably strikes.

5) Milk Toast: A foodstuff that seems to have dropped off the radar as of late, milk toast was popular up through the 1950s and 60s as a digestive and calming agent for sick children everywhere. It's still just as good today. Toast a piece of bread and melt some butter into it. Meanwhile, heat some milk (on the stove in the microwave) with a little bit of cinnamon and sugar in it. Pour the hot milk over the toast. Voila -- instant comfort food, we promise.

4) Hot Tea: Sure, it sounds simplistic. But there's nothing like a steaming mug of green tea to cleanse your snotty palate or a hot cup of chamomile to help you sleep off the aches and fever of the flu. Not to mention the steam will help clear your sinuses, and the hot water will help rinse that nasty gunk from the back of your throat. (A little hit of whiskey and honey in there never hurt, either.) Drink up!

3) Macaroni & Cheese: Perhaps the ultimate comfort food, sick or well, there is no one who will turn down a bowl of creamy macaroni and cheese no matter how poor they feel. The good money in this situation is on Luby's mac & cheese to go, although the Kraft blue box is passable, too (but who wants to "cook" when they're sick?).

2) Ginger Ale and/or 7-Up: Sure, they're mostly sugar and carbonation, but sips of these cold beverages between nibbles of Saltines do wonders to calm the stomach and bring to mind fond memories of your mother tucking you into the couch on a weekday afternoon as you watch old Three Stooges episodes and recuperate. Yes, orange juice or Pedialyte is probably better for you. We don't care. Sugary soft drinks are where it's at when you're sick.

1) Chicken Soup: Oh, that seems obvious, does it? Well that's because it's the best thing on earth for making you feel better when you're a phlegmy, sweaty, sore mess with bedhead that would scare Nick Nolte. While a can of Campbell's will do in a pinch, the real deal -- made with chicken thighs, real chicken stock, lots of carrots and onions and celery, and fresh noodles -- is what will cure what ails ya.

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Katharine Shilcutt