The old maxim goes: “Feed a cold, starve a fever,” which is based on the Medieval belief that eating food can help the body generate warmth during a cold and conversely avoiding food can help it cool down but this has been debunked. Recent medical studies maintain the old saying is wrong. It should be, “Feed a cold, feed a fever.” It may easily have been a team of Italian scientists that disproved this old adage.
When you are sick in Italy there is never starvation involved but Italians are remarkable when it comes to what you should and should not eat when sick. While Americans just plow through ailments or hide in bed – and not eating if they don’t feel like it – in Italy not having at least a bowl of mamma’s chicken soup is punishable by a lengthy jail term, so imagine fasting. Heresy!
Whether to treat minor issues like the colpo d’aria (stiffness or a cold from a draft, basically) or to attack more serious conditions, Italians have an entire protocol when it comes to eating the sickness away.
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, journalist, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her show “ABCheese” is broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso. She loves guiding culturally curious, food-passionate travellers seeking experiences in Italy beyond the guidebook.