Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Old Ways

Recently I blogged about the state of our current health care system, and the very next post pointed readers towards a cooking blog slathered in butter. If this is not clear evidence that I am an emotional eater, I am not sure what is. Anyhow, I found myself going through old cookbooks- trying to find something low fat, and somehow still tasty. I came up with nothing. Na da. Zip. Ziltch.

One of the books I often turn to for recipes is one that the Downhomer put out a few years ago. It is not your average cook book, nor is it one I recommend for beginner cooks. There are lots of recipes that are simply a listing of ingredients and one or two measly lines of directions. I guess you could just wing it if ya had to. In spite of that, the Downhomer cookbook is one of my favourites- not only does it have a lot of recipes from home, it has a bunch of Newfoundland Folklore tucked in between the recipe for Fisherman’s Brewis, and Toutons. There are poems and stories, jokes, silly illustrations, even a section on how to tie knots, and of course, old Folk Medicines. Some of them made me laugh, and some of them took me back in time…not literally geesh.

I remember as a kid in high school, I had an infected hangnail- don’t laugh, this really hurt. The tip of my writing finger was three times its normal size and glowed a bright, bright red: picture ET’s finger. This set me in a bit of a panic because Public Exams were days away, and the infected finger was on my writing hand. Schools these days would have let me off, or some one would have scribed the exam for me, however back then, it was tough noogies. I would be writing the exam unless my hand fell off. Never fear though, I had Grandma! She told me how to make a bread poultice and after 24 rather gross hours later the swelling had eased and white puss spewed forth. It still hurt to write, but I could deal with it.

Sometime the old ways are the better way to go. I took care of my infected finger without a trip to the Doctors office, without antibiotics, without pain medication. There was no harm done to the environment. It was simple. It worked. We need to start looking to a lot of what our ancestors did to survive and learn from them again.

I am not saying that you eschew the hernia operation and instead split a green witch hazel tree and pass through it. Or that you should forgo the tourniquet in favour of stuffing the wound with an application of cobwebs and turpentine of fir. Modern science has saved many lives, and improved the quality of life for many more. However, it seems to me that the price paid for the progress the modern world offers is our sense of balance. And I am not sure how to get it back.

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