Saturday, 5 June 2010

The Flu in Brazil

The Flu. Or is it just a bad cold? A friend told me yesterday that the scientific difference is whether or not you would be arsed to bend over and pick up a fifty quid note on the floor...If you could, you don't have the flu.

At any rate, the whole week has been punctuated with temperature-telling, medication measuring, coughing, sniffing, and the tiresome ritual of getting all wrapped up in blankets because we're freezing, only to unwrap our sweaty selves again five minutes later.

Of course there's nothing else that makes you miss 'home' more than being ill. We all yearn for our mothers to come and make it all better with familiar remedies: Vicks rubbed into our chests, Olbas oil on our pillow and syrupy spoonfuls of Benylin. Then there are the comforting, homely recovery foods like boiled eggs with Marmite soldiers and Heinz baked beans on toast.

The first time you are sick here you have to totally relearn all these rituals. You may be able to find approximations of Lemsips, Strepsils and Benylin but how can you replace your mother or Marmite or Baked Beans?

As it turns out I had a comfort food breakthrough this week. For the first time in 5 years I actually craved Brazilian-style black beans on rice: A warm, soft, sloppy, aromatic bowl of solace that more than made up for a lack of British beans.

I even made concessions to Brazilian medication and bought some Propolis extract. Propolis is a natural antibiotic produced and used by bees to protect their hives. Brazilians swear by it as a first line of defense against absolutely any ailment from minor cuts to major bruises. I got as far as buying it. I didn't yet use it but I can feel my throat starting to burn so I'll pop some drops before I head to bed.

I might even go so far as to say that the only thing on my list that can't be replaced is Marmite, because I do have a maternal stand-in: Eloiza. It is she who makes the delicious rice and beans, who takes my children out to play so I can rest supine on the sofa all afternoon, gives me suitably sympathetic looks and offers me hot tea with garlic, lemon and honey (which I decline). Of course I have to pay her to play this role, but she does it beautifully.

She would pick any stray fifty note off the floor, wash it and iron it before I even noticed it was there. How sick does that make me?


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