Sugar, Garlic, Ginger: A Cold Remedy You Shouldn't Like

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Tejal Rao


A few nights ago, I had friends over for dinner and one of them turned down a glass of wine. L felt a cold coming on. L wanted to keep her wits about her (L is in fact her name; I am not offering her anonymity or trying to be cute by shortening her name to a letter). I made her my cold remedy instead.

When I'm not feeling well—the sniffles, a cough—I brew a tea. A tea that leaves the drinker, usually me, with volatile breath. But it's worth it.

I know, some people like chicken soup and peppermint tea when they're feeling down, but I'm fond of the old cure-is-worse-than-the-symptoms stuff. The kind of stuff my grandmother used to make for me if she caught me sneezing.

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Tejal Rao

Some of her concoctions were so concentrated and bitter, they triggered gag reflexes. These I had to allow to dissolve slowly on my tongue, in front of her. What was wrong with me again? I couldn't remember!

Others weren't as bad, but they were still bad. For a cough she mixed jaggery (a crumbly, caramel-colored, unrefined sugar) with grated ginger and garlic and I ate the mix from a spoon like cookie dough. For a cold, her mixture involved raw eggs and generous glugs of brandy. I basically slept off whatever was wrong with me and woke with a new symptom: a headache.

My cure-all is modified a little, for the sake of mild enjoyment. Like any cocktail, I taste it and adjust it each time. A little more lemon, or grapefruit if I've got it. A little more honey. I'll add more water if it's turned out too strong. But I don't overdo the balancing. I mean, this drink has raw garlic in it, you know? The point is to have your ass kicked a little.

Into a teapot: squeeze the juice of a lemon. Add a very big tablespoon of honey, a nub of grated ginger, a small clove of grated garlic, and a pinch of pimentón. Add a mugful of just-boiled water, stir well, let sit for a minute, then pour through a tea strainer to get rid of all the bits. Depending on the night, add a glug of brandy or whiskey.

Enjoy! Or, better yet, don't.

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Tejal Rao

Tejal Rao is a writer and translator from Northwest London, living in
Brooklyn. She is a restaurant critic for the Village Voice. Follow her on Twitter or learn more at www.tejalrao.com.

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