deep sky, firefly (rainsinger) wrote,
deep sky, firefly

Garlic - it's more than just a seasoning

Here are four of the most often told stories about my maternal grandfather The Enterprising Peasant:

1) As one of 12 children in a poor and agrarian family they were always hungry. Their meals consisted of a big pot of beans or unpalatable food that their mother would brew and give each of them a bowlful of. Since a bowlful was never enough and all the children would be begging for more, their mother would throw a wooden spoon into the pot and turn away so she wouldn't see which one of the children got the extra helping and which 11 cried about starvation.

2) My grandfather put himself through school by getting up at 5am so he could haul firewood, and water for rich peasants and earn enough money for his school books and school materials. He did so well with his studying that he got to train as a doctor, and was a renowned microbiologist in his day.

3) During WWI my grandfather and his brother were conscripted into the army. The starving, poor, Yugoslav army. To prepare them for their march across Albanian mountains, their mother stuffed their pockets with garlic, which was pretty much the only produce she had, and she entreated them to eat garlic daily in order to stay healthy. They did as told, and verily verily they did not die of scurvy and disease unlike most of their unit, and they got sent to France after the war and the French liked garlic too and they gave them a free education, and then they lived Happily Ever Most Of The Time*.

4) My grandfather died very unexpectedly after suffering a catastrophic allergic reaction to penicillin, in controlled medical conditions while undergoing a process of sensitisation to penicillin. This took place a day before my mother's twelfth birthday.

These four stories have formed the founding principles of my mother's belief system concerning

1) being grateful for food
2) the importance and redeeming power of an education
3) that garlic will cure anything *
4) that all antibiotics and medicines (aside from garlic) are poison**, and that disaster can strike without warning at any minute, so it's best to be highly anxious all the time.

*Well exept for the nine years my great-uncle spent in solitary confinement and on Barren Island for criticising Tito's industrialisation program.

** My mother's belief in the power of garlic is unshakable. Whether singly, or in combination with her other two favourite medicines (olive oil and vodka) she uses it to treat pretty much any ailment, including: hair loss, ulcers, high blood pressure, ear infection, throat infection, flu. (The only thing not treatable with garlic is a urinary tract infection, which will be cured with parsley tea).

*** my mother's attitudes to medication can be synthesised into 1) man-made chemistry is poison and 2) if it's a plant that means it's natural, therefore good. (I'm always slightly surprised that she's never bought opium as a natural diet-and-sleep aid)
Tags: ancestors, family, history
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