Borscht: A Cure for the Common Cold?

So after that long day out in the cold with insufficient clothing, Lisa was still mysteriously hale and hearty, but I came down super-sick. We’ve been told we can’t take single sick-days, though. So I came into the the next day feverish and crying into my tea at the lunch room. My bosses decide that this Doesn’t look Good, so Galia is assigned to send me home for the afternoon. She comes to my desk after lunch and anxiously hovers — are you all right? Do you have a sore throat? She also asks if I know what to do when I’m sick. Sensing a cultural opportunity, I play senseless-American-qyz-who-has-never-been-sick-before, and Galia then proceeds to give me cures:

Gorgeous photo: “Аптека” by microdanilka

“First you should go to the apteka and buy a bint… a bint, you know, a bint…”

“Bandage,” Manya interrupts from her nearby desk, amused.

“Yes, a bandage, and then get some ramoshka, you call it kamomil. But make sure to ask for the trava ramoshka [the herb variety of chamomile]. Next,” she looks at me to make sure I’m watching closely, “you boil a cup of water. Pour in some of the ramoshka, for half an hour wait, then use the bint to… make it clear.”

“To strain it,” I nod.

“Strain? Yes, yes…” she says, “and uuggghhg…” she throws her head back.

“Gargle?” I ask.

“Yes, gargle the ramoshka… it will help with any sore throat.”

“Do you have a cough?” …This has just occured to her. She eyes me to determine cough-ness. I shrug and cough weakly.

“If you have a cough you should buy darchichniye,” she instructs. “It’s mustard for your chest [a mustard plaster]… but only if you’re not allergic to mustard.”

Manya laughs and says that people aren’t allergic to mustard in America. Galia looks distinctly startled, and moves on. I guess we all tend to assume our allergies and illnesses are universal rather than localized.

Anyhow, she goes on to say I should buy some malina vareniye (raspberry jam) and mix it with tea, for its curative powers. Take note, people. Myod (honey) and tea would also work.

I nod and reach to get my bag, but she also warns that I should keep my feet warm, soaking them for ten minutes in hot water, and drying and wrapping them in warm socks. I should take some (Robitussin-like) ColdRex, and then curl up in bed and sleep. Most of all, I should make sure to lichish’ (take care of) myself, and to rest.

“Don’t do anything!” Manya tells me, and I protest, sickly, that I have papers to write. She shakes her head as I bundle up into coat and slip out the door.

The texting shop-clerk at our school’s apteka (pharmacy) tells me they don’t have any ramoshka, so I just go home on the bus. I feel quite weak and feverish by the time I get home, and curl up in bed. But in the evening, my poor guest Lisa comes home and makes a delicious red borscht soup of beets, cabbage, onions, carrots, potatoes, and beef, which we eat with sour cream and tea. I start to feel a lot better. Lisa’s borscht is definitely a cure for whatever ails you. That might just be a cultural universal…

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