Thursday, November 01, 2018

Happy Fall, and How Not to Get Sick

Me (center) and Mary Anna Evans being interviewed in OKC
Happy All Saints' Day everyone, or All Souls, or Day of the Dead, or Halloween, or Samhain, whichever you prefer. I just returned a couple of days ago from a trip to the old Motherland, which for me is Oklahoma. I was invited to speak at the first ever Oklahoma Book Festival in Oklahoma City on October 20, and since I was in the neighborhood*, I rescheduled an event at the Public Library in Woodward, Oklahoma, that I had had to cancel out on last summer when the husband broke his arm. Both events were fun, though the Book Festival was a little discombobulated. To be expected for the first shake-down year. It didn't help that it had rained like a sun-of-a-gun the night before, and the ground under tent where Mary Anna Evans and I were supposed to speak became waterlogged, so they had to change the location of our venue at the last minute. Fortunately it was a gorgeous day and we were able to hold our session outside.

Yours Truly and Carolyn Hart

After my duty was done, I was able to go back to my hometown of Tulsa and have a mini-reunion with my three siblings, as well as visit with my friend Carolyn Hart. All in all it was a productive trip, and Don did perfectly well without me.

I'm home now, doing the final proofreading on my next novel, trying to recover from several days of being sociable, and being thankful that I don't have a case of the killer flu like I did at this time last year. In 2017 I wrote a novel called Return of the Raven Mocker which was set during the influenza epidemic of 1918 and included lots of early 20th Century home remedies for the flu. I used some of these when I was sick and they are actually helpful, so in the spirit of public service, I'm including a couple of preventative suggestions for you, Dear Reader. It’s fascinating to see what people resorted to before anti-viral drugs were available. When I was doing research on the book I received an email from my sister-in-law Dolores on this very topic. Here is an excerpt:

My Grandmother always baked an onion for a head cold.It loosened the congestion. I had forgotten about it until I read this email (I liked the smell also~)

In 1919 when the flu killed 40 million people there was this Doctor who visited the many farmers to see if he could help them combat the flu. Many of the farmers and their families had contracted it and many died. The doctor came upon this one farmer and to his surprise, everyone was very healthy. When the doctor asked what the farmer was doing that was different the wife replied that she had placed an unpeeled onion in a dish in the rooms of the home, (probably only two rooms back then). The doctor couldn't believe it and asked if he could have one of the onions and place it under the microscope. She gave him one and when he did this, he did find the flu virus in the onion. It obviously absorbed the bacteria, therefore keeping the family healthy.

This email was circulating around the web, and I expect it’s apocryphal, but I was interested because in my research I had found several home remedies that involve onions, and this fit right in. In fact, all the allium plants - onions, shallots, leeks, especially garlic - have volatile oils that seem to be antibacterial and/or antiviral.

We didn’t have much garlic around the old homestead when I was a kid, but garlic is truly useful for fighting disease. Research shows that garlic builds white blood cells, thus boosting immunity. Besides, it’s delicious.

If you’ve never baked a head of garlic, now is the time. Trim off the top of the garlic head to expose the cloves, drizzle a little olive oil over it, wrap the head in some foil or place it in a clay or ceramic baking dish. Bake the head in a hot oven for about 30 minutes, or until the cloves are very soft. Squeeze the baked garlic out of the cloves into a small bowl and mash it up with a fork. At this point you can add oil, herbs, a little salt, whatever appeals. Or you can just spread the garlic on a cracker like butter and chow down. Even if you are not a garlic fan, I can assure you that well-baked garlic is infinitely milder than the raw stuff.

And speaking of the raw stuff, remember that Roman gladiators used to chew cloves of raw garlic to make them strong. You bet it did, in more ways than one.

So, place a few raw, unpeeled onions around the house and chow down on some garlic. It may help you avoid the flu, if for no other reason than your friends will keep their distance. And you won’t be bothered by vampires this Halloween, either.
*"In the neighborhood" is a relative term. Woodward is a three hour drive from Oklahoma City, way closer to the Texas panhandle than to the middle of Oklahoma

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