Hi! Just another parent here who survived a weekend of sick kids. We were a house ravaged by some sort of stomach bug, hitting my one year old, then my four year old and then me.

Food seems both important but unnecessary during an illness like this. We need calories to live, but with no appetite, it’s hard to swallow. Bites included pancakes (a combination of AP, whole wheat and buckwheat flours give it oomph), oatmeal (with peanut butter and raisins), bananas, apple sauce and noodle soup with homemade vegetable stock.

Soup! That’s what we needed. I added the skins of onions and garlic I’ve been saving in a bag in the freezer, plus a few not-bad-yet scraps—fennel, celery, carrots and some thyme I ganked from my neighbor’s yard—into the Instant Pot. Problem was, we started this late morning and needed lunch stat. My husband drained the liquid from the spent vegetables and what was left, after 30 minutes of pressure and about another 30 with a natural release, was some lightly flavored water. He salted it like crazy. We added farfalline, the cutest little bowtie pasta, and some oil, parm and pepper into the broth-filled bowls. It worked, but wasn’t great. I was determined to make this stock happen. I added the vegetables back into the stock and let it simmer on the stove for another two or so hours.

What I got then was bitter vegetable water.

I probably could have skipped the pressure cooker and just followed Harold McGee’s simple instructions, where water and vegetables (1 part vegetable: 1.5-2 parts water) are simmered uncovered for no more than an hour. “It’s generally agreed,” writes McGee in On Food and Cooking, “that the stock flavor ceases to improve and even deteriorates,” with more time.

But I will not let that hard-worked liquid go to waste. Because it can’t shine on its own, I’m going to use it to simmer red lentils (with an onion, spiced simply with cumin, turmeric and grated ginger) and greens. On the side: a vat of sticky rice. No matter what ails you, rice seems to be the answer.

On the day I could barely lift my head, as I spread out on the rug unable to do a thing, I watched my husband wash the dishes. (Did I mention our dishwasher just broke?) I asked him if he’d rather be sick or do the dishes? I think you know what any overtired parent (with the luxury of paid sick days) would say. We both laughed. He didn’t need to answer.

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