I’ve been inside all week with the “Creepin’ Crud.” I’m sure that’s not a medical term, but how else do you describe this miserable head, throat, chest ailment that’s making the rounds? If only my mother were here, she’d know how to handle it.
Before the advent of Z-Paks and penicillin, we made do with home remedies and OTC medications. I recall her shellacking my little throat and chest with Vick’s Vapor Rub. To this day I keep a jar in my night table.
Mama often spoke of wearing an aspidity bag around her neck during the winter. When opened, the foul-smelling herbs had the power to empty a one-room school house. If you wore one, nobody would get close to you and that’s perhaps the secret of its success in warding off communicable diseases. I never inquired about the “recipe,” fearing my mother and grandmother might design a bag for me, if I appeared too interested.
A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down
When my throat hurt, a bit of honey or a Smith Brother’s cough drop would sooth the soreness.But sometimes Mama would reach into an upper kitchen cabinet and pull out a bottle of cheap bourbon and administer a spoonful along with a bit of sugar. Our family, being of the Baptist persuasion, used spirits only for medicinal purposes, you understand—not recreational. Such home remedies may be of dubious value, but, at least, they make the suffering more tolerable. To this day, bourbon reminds me of cough syrup.
Chicken Soup for Body and Soul
Chicken soup was a family standby: cheap, tasty, and good for what ails you. The fumes alone had therapeutic value. Medicinal chicken soup was easy to make. You just threw a chicken in a pot of water along with some seasonings. Put it on the back burner, and let nature take its course. For the recovering patient, a few carrots, celery and onions could be added and perhaps rice or noodles. Served with crumbled Saltines, the hot brew put your gastro-intestinal track back in order in no time.
Years later I ran onto a chicken soup recipe, that I use to this day. I found it in one of those spiral-bound cookbooks, that churches and clubs sold to raise money. I love it, but it has 16 ingredients, for heaven’s sake !! One of which is Beau Monde, a spice blend, that I had a hard time finding in our small Ozark town in the 60s. The recipe also calls for frozen, flat noodles. I’ve made the soup without them, but the frozen noodles add another dimension to the brothiness.
I was plumb out of frozen chicken soup this week, so a friend came by with the next best thing: a hearty bowl of pho, or “Vietnamese penicillin.” Perfect!
My daughter, Robin, is a big advocate of hydration and sleep to cure the pangs of winter. Those who were ailing years ago went to bed and ate “sick food,” (toast, Jello, thin soup, rice pudding, crackers, cream of wheat, Popsicles, and hot tea). Without TVs or iPhones, we did something called reading, We worked puzzles or listened to the radio. During my bout with mumps, I finished an entire Nancy Drew series.
When I was 4-years-old, I survived whooping cough, though my parents and the family doctor, who made numerous house calls, feared I might not pull through. Our physician, a Scotsman, named Dr. A. Magruder MacDonald, finally ventured a prediction while snow was still on the ground. He said, “She’ll be well when the leaves on the oak trees are the size of a squirrel’s ear.” Doctors don’t talk in such prose today.
I think of that visual, when the trees begin to unfold each year, and smile, as I recall the new life, that came to me that spring—and each thereafter.
Up Date: The doctor tells me that I have a severe sinus infection, that requires several medications. Fortunately, they’re working—with help from the Vietnamese soup, of course.