Wednesday , 20 June 2018

Kyra’s Kitchen: Old Wives’ Tales

By Kyra Effren, TSB Food Writer

Recently there have been a number of newspaper and magazine articles about the spiraling cost of medication, together with a growing concern about “over medication” of  patients.

It got me to thinking about how our parents and grandparents took care of their ailments without the benefit of antibiotics and modern pills and potions.

I own a very old battered book of household management wherein the opening sentence in the section on Medical remarks, “When people fall sick they seem to lose what little common sense they possessed when well.”  The paragraph ends with, “the household medicine chest should contain only simple remedies – the effect of which, at worst, cannot be very injurious.”

Some of the following “remedies” may not have been injurious – but they were certainly arcane or even barbaric.

To stop bleeding in the nose – “bathe the feet in very hot water, drinking at the same time a pint of cayenne pepper tea, or hold both arms above the head.” Mrs. Beeton, of British fame, is a little kinder:  “A wet towel laid suddenly on the back and the patient in a recumbent posture.”

For sprains:  “The white of an egg and salt mixed to a thick paste – good for man or beast [sic]– rub well the part affected.”

For worms:  “A dish of boiled onions.”

A cure for constipation however seems remarkably modern:  “One to two figs: or a “spoon of wheaten bran in a glass of water.” Or “one or two tumblers of hot water will move almost everyone, but is difficult to take.”

Bite of Dog – this from Mrs. Beeton – “Keep the wound open as long as possible by putting a few beans on it and then applying a large linseed poultice.” {They were VERY partial to poultices.}

I grew up on a farm where non life threatening illnesses were dealt with at home using what was to hand.  I can vouch for the efficacy of all of the following:

Diarrhea?  A grated apple allowed to go brown and eaten a teaspoon at a time.  Or two tablespoons of brandy mixed with two tablespoons of olive oil [Yech].
Upset Stomach?  Two tablespoons of brandy mixed with two tablespoons of port. [We lived on a WINE farm!]Sinus or cold?  Head under a towel over a steaming bowl of water.
Nausea?   Flat Coca-Cola with a teaspoon of sugar stirred in.
Hiccups?  Take 11 sips of water without pause.

Here are readers’ favorite home remedies from The People’s Pharmacy, written by two PHARMACISTS!:

‘Black pepper for bleeding
‘Cinnamon for cholesterol
‘Coconut for diarrhea
‘Mustard for heartburn and leg cramps
‘Olive oil for hemorrhoids’  [don’t ask!] ‘Vinegar for dandruff
‘Yoghurt for hangnails
‘Turmeric for arthritis
and Vicks Vapo-Rub for just about anything!

Other tried and true home remedies:
The juice from the aloe vera plant for burns.
Local honey is ideal for allergies [that ‘remedy’ for my cough was suggested by the doctor in Cape Town!]

And then of course there is CHICKEN SOUP – that panacea of all ills which even the medical profession has grudgingly acknowledged has curative powers!

I keep chicken soup in my freezer and will dispense it to ailing friends and family with excellent results and no side effects – except a craving for more.  [Or, at least, that is what they tell me.] 

Here is the recipe – send me your success stories!

1 cooked chicken {I buy one at the supermarket] 1 onion, washed but not peeled
4 large carrots, cleaned, cut in chunks
3 stalks celery, cut in large pieces
¼ cup parsley stalks
1 turnip [optional] 2 chicken stock cubes

Place all in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover plus four inches.
Bring to the boil and then lower the heat and simmer gently uncovered for four hours.
The liquid should be reduced by 1/3.
Allow to cool, then strain the stock into containers and freeze until ready to use.
Note: You can discard the vegetables which have given up their all for the soup but use the flesh of the chicken to make a casserole.

To use the Chicken Stock:
Defrost.  Remove the cap of fat from the top.
Reheat the soup and check the seasoning.

If your family has  Cures From The Kitchen, please submit them and we will publish them in the coming weeks for the benefit of all of us!

About the Author
McKinney resident Kyra Effren is a contributing writer for’s “Food” section.  She is a retired food stylist and contributing writer for the “Food” section of Dallas Morning News. In 1975, Effren opened Cours de Cuisine Cooking School in Dallas and in 1978, she was awarded The Commanderie des Cordon Bleu in France for her contributions to French cooking.   She has edited multiple cookbooks and served as recipe tester for a number of cookbooks including both of the Mansion on Turtle Creek cookbooks by Dean Fearing and baking books by Nick Malgieri.

Kyra welcomes any and all reader comments and suggestions.  What would you like to have for dinner?

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