EAST PROVIDENCE — After more than two years of avoiding it, I got COVID-19 recently. I must have picked it up on a vacation in Portugal. Two days after I got back from my trip, having stuffed myself with sheep cheese and Super Bock and mais uma Super Bock for a week straight, my throat started to feel an unmistakable little tickle.
That tickle turned into a wildfire not long after I tested positive. I’ve read that the new Omicron variants have a slightly different symptom profile. Losing your sense of smell and taste is less common, but a sore throat is more common. That was exactly my experience. What I didn’t know is that in some cases, that sore throat feels like you’re swallowing a handful of thumbtacks when you’re just trying to get down some water.
This disease has been a burden on so many people — it has upended lives, strained hospitals, and killed thousands of Rhode Islanders. It’s important not to forget that. The disease remains deadly and dreadful.
For many, though, COVID-19 means a few days or a week or two of a pretty nasty virus, and then recovery. That includes me. Shivering under three blankets on the Fourth of July weekend, listening to the sound of fireworks and eating my 1,776th popsicle, all I could think about was food.
These are some of the Rhode Island foods I was daydreaming about, and that I started eating once I eased back into that sort of thing. I pause here to note two quick, obvious things: While you’re sick, go with the delivery option or get a friend who’s not subject to quarantine/isolation to pick it up for you. Also, I’m not a doctor and this isn’t medical advice. None of this will necessarily make you feel any better, except maybe in your soul.
Wara Wara, Providence
This was the first non-popsicle food I ate when I finally started to feel a little better. It was so delicious I could have cried. Wara Wara, on Hope Street in Providence, serves Japanese cuisine, including ramen. (I pause here to observe that people who don’t get extra noodles with their ramen must be the same people who get single-stuff Oreos — in other words, people I’ll never understand.) The whole menu is great, but ramen is about as comforting as it gets when you’re sick, and Wara Wara does it with gusto.
Feeling sick? Gotta get something from the pharmacy. Delekta’s used to be Delekta Pharmacy, and many locals will still call it that, owner Eric Delekta says, although the pharmacy operations ceased about five years ago. Now, at Delekta’s, you won’t find any actual medicine anymore, but you will find a cabinet, Rhode Island’s answer to the milkshake or frappe or whatever you want to call this milk-ice-cream-flavor concoction. Their most popular flavor made with their homemade coffee syrup, naturally. No, the coffee cabinet is not a place to store your Keurig, it’s just a fantastic ice cream beverage for a sore throat. They have multiple ice cream flavors, local kitsch like Rhode Island trivia flash cards, and somewhat limited hours. It’s the perfect local establishment in one of Rhode Island’s loveliest downtowns.
Galito Restaurant, Pawtucket
Whenever I go to a Portuguese restaurant, I ask what the soup of the day is, and most of the time, I’m heartily disappointed — because it’s usually not caldo verde. Caldo verde is made of greens, potatoes and a couple slices of sausage. It is the best soup this side of clam chowder. And Galito, unlike a lot of Portuguese places around here, has it on their standard menu. Reader: It was really good. By the time I got around to ordering it recently, for journalistic research purposes related to this story, I felt good enough to throw in an order of carne de porco à alentejana, too. At Galito, they serve it the way I remember it growing up: with pickled vegetables. Take note, other area Portuguese restaurants: Galito’s doing this part right.
Monahan’s Clam Shack by the Sea, Narragansett
Speaking of chowder: Soup is the quintessential food to get when you’re sick, and clam chowder is the quintessential New England soup. One great place to get it is Monahan’s Clam Shack by the Sea in Narragansett, the type of no-frills place where you order at the window and get your chowder immediately in a brown paper bag. The logo, of a clam with cartoon eyeballs and a tongue hanging out of the shell, is a triumph of graphic design and should be on the state’s license plate. They have red, white, and clear options. Clear might be a little lighter as you’re on the mend, but let’s be honest, white chowder is the best.
Plant City, Providence
Plant City, the plant-based food hall and marketplace on South Water Street, is so good that even a dedicated carnivore can find something to love. For this dedicated carnivore on a recent hot Wednesday when I was well past isolation but still feeling sluggish — probably I had eaten too much pork alentejana and clam chowder — that was the Tropic smoothie. I picked it mostly because the barista recommended it, but also because it had coconut water (to stay hydrated) and a little peppery spice (for the kick). But the best part of going to Plant City, if you’re finally testing negative and feeling positive, is taking your food out to the Michael S. Van Leesten Memorial Bridge to get a little sunshine and fresh air. After too much time on the couch, there’s nothing better.