22    Apr 20131 comment

Family Heritage: Not just chicken soup!

Many of our female ancestors were healers or midwives.

In the old days, when doctors were few and far between in rural areas, women with knowledge of medicinal herbs, of healing the sick and of midwifery were important community members.

In the American Southwest, among the old Hispanic families, there are many documented curanderas (healers). The older generations still tend gardens of special medicinal herbs and are the keepers, preservers and transmitters of generations of remedies.

In some countries, foods are classified as hot or cold in nature. People with certain ailments are told to eat one and not the other or vice versa. It is something a person is brought up with and never disregarded. Those who have not been raised with this system generally find "the rules" somewhat strange.

So do these remedies really work, or do we just believe that they work because that’s what we’ve been told since we were little children? In any case, this is part of our family history, of our heritage, and the details should be preserved.

My maternal great-grandmother – born in Lithuania and who lived in Belarus after her marriage – was a healer and a midwife, and “practiced” in the immigrant neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey, where the family settled. Her knowledge rubbed off on one of her sons as Uncle Lou attended medical school and practiced for many years in a Baltimore, Maryland neighborhood.

A nearly universal remedy, chicken soup is considered good for those who are ill. In fact, a major hospital in Miami received a large study grant years ago to determine if patients given the soup went home sooner than those who didn’t eat it. The answer, as we can all guess, was yes. Another study revealed that the components in chicken soup nearly duplicated many over-the-counter cold remedies, so our grandmothers really did know what they were doing.

Every country has a version of chicken soup. Our family’s Eastern European recipe includes carrots, onions, parsnips, garlic, parsley and mint. Our family's Persian version includes chickpeas, meatballs called gondi, turmeric and potatoes. It's nice to have a choice - both are delicious!

We’d like to know what your family’s chicken soup recipe contains, and what other remedies for ailments have been passed down in your family. Do tell us from what country the family recipe and remedies come from!

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  1. A remedy for what was called the croop, sore throat and chest congestion, from my Grandmother was to take the juice of a large onion and sugar, then garggle with this mixture and then swallow it. O' Lord it was nasty, BUT, it worked.

    Another old wife's remedy I learned from a girl friend's mother, when her grandchildren were coming down with a cold was to rub "Vick's" salve on the bottoms of their feet, put socks on their feet just as they were going to bed. Believe it or not, in the morning the kids had no sign of any kind of cold or chest congestion, it really worked.

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