I look down at my Blackberry and read David’s text: “I’m on my way, amor.”
My husband – who is also suffering from a cold – is racing to pick up the required “medicine” to fix the madness cruising both our body systems and provoking chills, fevers, headaches and the sense that the world is coming to an end soon unless we drink that miracle fluid.
“Just make sure you get the right one, honey,” I reply while wiping my watery eyes and hearing my congested chest.
Childhood memories flood my drowsy brain cells. They bring my mother back as she enters my bedroom where the sun is shining through a large black-iron framed window flanked by two cotton red curtains edged with white and red checkered ruffles.
I am 7 years-old and fighting a common cold, lying in my bed adorned by the curtain-matching bedspread. The Country French furnishings and décor created by my mother bring my princess status to life, a make-believe world that makes me want to get better sooner than later. She is holding a tray with eating utensils and linens. I glance at the miracle cure and my senses perk up.
In years to come, I would learn about the strongly held belief of many cultures, some separated by thousands of miles and oceans, that certain foods are the only medicine to use for different kinds of ailment.
In El Salvador, the country where I lived most of my childhood and young adult years, one cures a hangover with sopa levanta muertos.
This “raising the dead soup” has many secret ingredients but the stomach lining and feet of cow are central to its making.
Another mandatory enhancement I could not escape during my upbringing was the dreadful, daily spoonful of cod liver oil.
And, to overcome insomnia, one might consume a heavy plate of pitos con alguashte, a long shaped red sour fruit prepared with ground pumpkin seeds I have yet to see in Detroit’s Mexicantown markets.
“Try to sit up hijita linda,” my mother encourages, hoping for a position to make her work easier. “This is not hot, just the right temperature chichí. Drink up,” she instructs, while maneuvering a spoonful of the miracle food to my mouth.
The soft pieces of potato, corn, carrot, tomato and cabbage float in the heavy broth, along with the aromatic garlic, cilantro, parsley and clove that make caldo de pollo – Spanish for chicken soup – the perfect prescription of my ancestors.
I still wonder what exactly is the secret ingredient that makes this concoction the best cold-curing medicine for all these cultures and peoples of the ancient world. I remember a report from the University of Nebraska about the anti-inflammatory properties of this old home remedy. But although they have tested all its ingredients, mixed and separated, they are unable to determine which one produces the active effect.
Perhaps it is the combination of ingredients. I mean, all of them. The chicken, the legumes, the starchy tuberous vegetable, the boiling heat.
And then, that other hidden ingredient. The kind that transfers a secret energy into the peeling, cutting, grinding, mixing, spicing, stirring and pouring.
That secret ingredient that called me amor, love, and chichí or baby, kissed my forehead, tucked me in and held my hand. That secret ingredient called love. My mother’s then. My husband’s now.
Credit: homepage slider aussiegall, image above: The Sick Child by Edvard Munch