Take thou….

Map of the Spice Routes

Detox this January? No thanks, don’t need it.- I was toxic enough over Christmas. Not a nice, convivial, eating, drinking, staying up late having fun type of toxicity but the kind visited on me by a respiratory infection which struck immediately after Christmas and has outstayed its welcome.

Oh yes, I know I’m not alone. All round the country, people have had their Christmas robbed by our Rulers, the viral infections, and their second batallion, the bacterial and fungal rearguard. People who looked forward to a nice break, relaxing with their families and friends, felt cheated as they dragged themselves back to the workplace last week, like spent gnats.

On day one, when the first symptoms strike, you do a little deal with yourself. “What date is it today? OK So! In seven days I’ll be over this so I just have to stay warm/dry/rested/hydrated to make this doesn’t go down to my chest, and it’ll be gone in a week. Nothing actually cures the common cold so I’ll take a few paracetamol/ Lem-Sips/Hot Whiskies/ Vitamin C and Zinc/ Vick Rubs/ Early nights to alleviate the symptoms”.

But you don’t have a deal. You deluded yourself. It settles in for as long as it likes, and may even cause you to go to your GP for antibiotics as you begin to realise that New Year celebrations are blighted, and Nollaig na mBan ones too. You now have an added responsibility- not to infect anyone else. Lots of handwashing, solitary confinement during the sneezing phase, lack of voice during the laryngitis phase confer monastic isolation on you. And all this while the household is in full swing.

The mechanisms in your body that normally rejoice in the aroma and hit of a good cup of coffee can’t stand the stuff. A decomissioned nose kills the pleasure of smelling your food and anyway, the appetite isn’t great. “ Feed a cold and starve a fever” is the old saying, but since you have both a cold and a fever and are furious as well, you don’t know which is which.

Chicken broth enjoys the soubriquet “ Jewish Penicillin”. Having made it for my family over the years, they know how to make it for me. The clear soup made by simmering some chicken, onion, celery, carrot, parsley, thyme and black peppercorns for an hour or two really does put body and soul back together. I also include sliced ginger root- it tastes SO right when everything else has no taste at all. And you can consume it for several days and still love it (as one loves any life-raft)

It’s not all awful, however. Lying low gave me a chance to look back over my 2011 photos and diary. Now the unexamined life is a life not worth living, as Socrates observed although I prefer the opposite- that the unlived life is a life not examining (since that was my customized version of the festive season!). Anyway, it cheered me up no end to revisit and remember many happy days in 2011. Deleting the rubbish photos has probably enhanced my feng shui enormously .

Last September I spent a balmy afternoon in the Chelsea Physic Garden, London.

Gate to Chelsea Physic Garden, London

A four acre botanic garden has existed on this spot for nearly three and a half centuries due to a microclimate that gives it temperatures of about 3°C above average at any time of year. An enthusiastic botanist guided us through the history of British plant collecting and cultivation over three hundred and forty years. She then brought us through the medicinal garden, explaining the origins of so many contemporary drugs. We were left to our own devices to explore the Spice Routes exhibition. Since everybody’s kitchen cupboard contains at least a few spices from the other side of the world, it was fascinating to read about the spice trading routes, the wars and power struggles, and the spices’ therapeutic properties, including Yogi Tea.

Black Pepper- its uses

Yogi tea has been my favourite drink during quarantine. Its spicy aroma fills the house, it hits the spot, and can be drunk in large quantities. The addition of a dollop of best local honey makes it seem much more therapeutic. More importantly, when I contemplate the spices in it, their global origin, history and geography, it transports me to a world outside my (temporarily) miserable situation and lets me fantasise that some day I may visit Kerala, Zanzibar, maybe even Indonesia where these extraordinary and transformative foodstuffs grow.

Formulae- amazing how close to each other the spices are

Yogi Tea


4 pints water
15 cloves
15 whole green cardamon pods
15 whole black peppercorns
1 thumb sized piece finger of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
3 sticks cinnamon
1 teabag, Black Tea

Milk and/or Honey to taste


1. Bring water to boil in a non reactive pot.

2. Add all spices except black tea bag. Boil 30 -45 min.

3. Finally, add black tea bag and boil another 5 min.

The black tea is added last because it amalgamates the spices and ‘fixes’ them. Also the tannins help the stomach absorb the essential oils of the spices.

Remove teabag and take pot off the heat

To serve

Fill a teapot with Yogi Tea, using a sieve or strainer to hold back the spices as they are annoying in the mouth. Keep warm as you would a pot of regular tea- by using a tea cosy or keeping the teapot on a range or by the fire.

Serve with a little jug of milk and a dish of best local Irish honey with a little spoon. Milk didn’t appeal to me, and a little honey was perfect.

To store
When cool, decant the remainder of the Yogi Tea into a lidded jug (e.g. Tupperware) and store on the fridge door. Remember to strain to hold back the spices. It’s easy to reheat one cupful or more as you need it.

When all is said and done, a good, full-blown winter cold in an otherwise healthy person has its uses. The immune system gets not just a workout, but a seven to ten day boot camp which has to be good for it…Right? And you lose weight. And you do a deal with yourself that you’ve had your annual cold and won’t be getting another this year…..Right? A Deal? With a virus?

About haysparks

Viewing the world, the human condition, our history, evolution and health through the prism of food.
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8 Responses to Take thou….

  1. jozeemac says:

    Not you as well, MoI? Why do the good etc etc? Another Xmas stolen by sickness, the subject of my lastest post as well! I reckon the national immunity is at an all time low. Glad to see you’re better and will be posting my tonic recipe soon. Happy New Year (PS like the banner pic – cabbage lovers are all ‘heart’!;))

    • haysparks says:

      Hi Jo, loved your post. Your situation was SO much worse than mine, having small children and Santa to contend with! Your pic of all the medicine just nailed it!
      So here’s Good Health to you and yours for 2012.

  2. Liz says:

    I too just wrote about how the cold finally caught up with me. I’ve been a ginger addict myself this past week…ginger in tea…ginger in soup. I’ll have to give this yogi tea a try – sounds perfect for a weekend holed up in pajamas, sniffling it out.

  3. haysparks says:

    Hi Liz, every time I make an infusion of ginger-root, I wonder who it was who ever told me about this and say prayers for them. Even though the Chinese have used ginger for over 5,000 years, I only came to it in the past couple of years.
    It’s Chinese New Year on January 23rd. Wishing you and yours an auspicious Year of the Dragon.


  4. WiseMona says:

    This sounds so good. It reminds me of a drink my Mum used to make for us when I was a child except she used white peppercorns and powdered ginger. She brewed hers in the pot, with milk though not water, with honey and all and we drank it cold from the fridge or hot from the pot. It was very very delicious. Hope you are feeling better and enjoying this brand new year.

    • haysparks says:

      Thanks, Mona. Feeling renewed, and very sorry for those who are still under the weather with a winter cold! Your Mum was miles ahead of the posse with a drink like that when you were ill. They say there’s no science to back it up, but I do believe that nurturing makes all the difference, especially when you’re ill.
      You’ve some important projects ahead this year. May the wind be always at your back!

  5. Shad Subera says:

    Viral infections are hard to treat, the best way to combat viral infections is still prevention. build a strong infection to prevent the chances of getting viral disease like colds and stuffs. :`**.

    Most current write-up on our personal webpage

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