The Doctor is IN

You say you have a spring cold? Then come to my house because I have all the latest remedies.

Take this bottle of Tylenol: You can’t see the date in this position but it says 1996. And yet my hardy perennial of a husband insists it’s probably still good. I’ve seen the man eat eggs that even the con-men who run the giant chicken farms tell you not eat after a certain date. He eats them as an example to the rest of us who have run screaming from the room. (“Aaaaargh, don’t crack them open! For God’s sake don’t crack them open!”)

He does crack them open though, and calmly cooks and eats them. He is one Waste Not Want Not kind of a guy.

But back to my point about remedies: I’ve been working on next week’s column about the art of improvising and pulled down from the shelf three cookbooks from the 1890s to see what they say about substitutions and making do. I’ll admit I have these books out all the time, and not just to see the handwriting of my young grandmother who closed her pretty blue eyes for the last time before her 32nd birthday. I take them down because the advice about housekeeping so cheers me, involving baking soda and naphtha, camphor and kerosene. (Yup kerosene! Those ladies knew how to LIGHT IT UP all right.)

Anyway they have plenty to say about sickrooms too as well as the remedies we should all know about – like this one for a head cold which says you should “take a quantity of black pepper and put it in a handkerchief; the fold the handkerchief over so that the grains cannot fall out, and saturate the whole thing with camphor; bind this plaster on the head and lie down. In a very few minutes headache will be relieved and the patient will be asleep.”

I think I like it because it isn’t clear if you’re putting the peppery mess on the head of the patient or yourself.

I also like the remedy for earache that says it’s probably a bad tooth which you should pull out at once.

But I like best the remedy for a poor complexion which reads as follows: “To improve complexion:Be cheerful; get as much fresh air indoors and outdoors as possible; keep in health; and promote a good digestion and regular evacuations.”

It also says, “It is good to rise early in the morning, drink a cup of milk, walk into the fields, wash the face in sparkling dew, gaze on creation below above and all around you, till mental pleasure beams forth on your face in radiant smiles. check the effects of grief, disappointments, embarrassments.”

Just check them, dammit! Then stride out into the fields again. Nothing is easy, people.

And if none of that works come back here, we’ll put you by the fire and blow some black pepper up your nose – then serve you some of David’s eggs followed by a nice tall glass of Nyquil on the rocks.

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