I was a sickly child. Not the heart wrenching kind lying in bed with an ethereal faraway look in my eyes. Nor was I like Tiny Tim filling my family with wonder at my courage and pluck. I was the gross kind. Snotty, scratchy, wheezy, whiney.
I was born with a raft of allergies and my reaction to being exposed to fish or nuts, trees or grass, cats or fur dogs was in the extreme. (Although nothing like kids today. No one actually died by the hand of a peanut) I mean extreme in making me look and sound disgusting. My eyes would swell, seal shut and ooze, what can only be described as, white, viscous tears. My throat, beyond itchy, was relieved by making this loud reverse retching noise, a sound pitched to instantly put people’s teeth on edge. While I was scratching my throat, I was sticking pencil tips in my ears aimed to kill yet another itchy hotspot.
I was also born covered in eczema, which, the second I was coordinated enough to marshal all my fingers, created its own scratching rituals, ones that usually ended with me being a bloody pulp.
Oh and I had buckteeth.
Like Marlon Brando says to Eva Marie Saint in On The Waterfront, “You were a mess.” But like her, I too turned out okay. Just.
My mother, a child of WW11 and its deprivations, made it through the war fighting fit because her mother had her children not only eat the stems and the leaves of whatever scant vegetables they could get their hands on but also drink the green cooking water.
When it came her turn to be a mother and she found herself with a sickly daughter it was only natural that she came to the conclusion that if a little green water could save her from the worst brought upon her by that maniac Hitler, there must be a liquid concoction that could set me right.
So was born the health drink, the bane of my life, and a very valid reason for running away from home rather than dragging my scab ridden self into the kitchen where my mother waited, drink in hand. And what was this elixir that she created to cure all my ills? There were many variations and over the years adjustments to proportion but the main body was made up of orange juice, brewer’s yeast, soy oil, I think maybe a raw egg, some milk, lecithin, a little honey for taste and for all I know a dash of belladonna. I mean who wouldn’t want to get rid of a kid like me. The result was a thick, grainy, absolutely horrible tasting drink, which foamed and hissed and bubbled in the most disconcerting manner. Not only was I forced to drink it but my sisters as well, which, didn’t foster much sisterly affection. In fact, they hated me. For all we suffered the drink had no visible effect other than every morning to make us thoroughly nauseas. Eventually I grew up and out of the worst on my symptoms.
So why then thirty years on have I gone and concocted my own disgusting health drink? If I believe absolutely that lecithin, soy and brewer’s yeast did nothing for me, why now am I convinced that drinking a bitter brew of turmeric and cinnamon everyday is going to prevent a dizzying array of woes, everything from Alzheimer’s, to liver disease, to crippling painful joints and, hope against hope, death.
I don’t have an answer except to say somewhere in the back of my mind must lie an archaic belief that drinking something horrible everyday has to be good for you, the same way I know that drinking something that makes you feel good (vodka anyone?) is good for you too. That’s the reasonable me talking, or the deluded one. Your choice.