The puppets finally show up with süt, çam balı ve sarmisak

English: A basket of garlic (allium sativum) o...

Lots and lots of garlic - that's what Karagoz wants me to eat in order to feel you agree? Image via Wikipedia

This morning, the puppets finally came down from the mango room to visit me.  They have been having a wild time up in our office (a.k.a. the mango room), chasing the sunbeams and dust bunnies up there.  It has been about a week.  They let me know that it was all about writer’s block by gifting me with a quite lovely cardboard typewriter.  You can read about all that here.  In any case, today, just after dawn, I heard the creaking boards of the stairs and attempted to open my somewhat-glued-shut eyes, a molasses process.  I saw the dog on the foot of the bed, turning his head this way and that, trying to make sense of what was happening out there, and then I saw them turn the corner and proceed into the room and up onto the bumpy field that is our cotton matellasse bedspread…carrying trays of food my way….but I couldn’t quite understand why they were bringing me what they were bringing me.

The parade, not surprisingly, started with Karagoz himself, who did cartwheels while inexplicably not spilling his tray of rawgarlic (sarmisak in Turkish). “Here you go, m’lady,” he said between whoops and hollers, his Tourette’s Syndrome going wild, “what you need is garlic – and how!” I recalled how M. used to brag to me about eating multiple heads of garlic while on the island by himself – to become as healthy as all get-out. “What Karagoz should say, m’lady,” Esma (the parade organizer) added in, “is that garlic is great for doing battle with illness, but wait, we have more for you.”

The little chorus of dancing ladies followed Karagoz around the bumps of bedspread, carefully carrying ochre-hued earthenware pots of çam balı (chahm-bah-luh, pine tree honey). “This, m’lady,” they whispered, “will soothe your throat – what’s not to love about the scent of pine trees and the sunshine of the Aegean all in one sweet, sticky spoonful?”

Hacivad Bey and Yehuda Rebbe followed along, sharing the burden of carefully carrying a gleaming glass pitcher of whole, organic milk (süt, pronounced “suht” which M. will likely correct).  “This is the connecting factor, m’lady,” they explained with serious expressions, “you need to mix it all together.”

It was a sort of love fest grocery parade, but it was confusing me. “Are you trying to send me a message, puppets, do the ingredients have some secret meaning -sort of like the language of flowers?” I croaked, realizing my voice was as raspy as a raisin on a grater and immediately wishing I had not tried to use my voice. “How am I supposed to mix these together – honey and milk, I get, but, um, garlic?”

“M’lady,” Esma spoke soothingly, “you need to take off your American glasses, and try this new approach…aTurkish remedy.  We will guide you to the stove – you need to get out of bed at least once today – and we thought that a bit of pomp and circumstance in the form of a parade with the ingredients  might be fun.  You know, like the three Magi going to visit the baby Jesus, although we know you don’t have any delusions or illusions about that, we just liked the processional, and it was a nice way to come back from the writer’s block vacation in style.”

“OK, puppets, I will get up as soon as I can, but right now, I am feeling……a bit……..diz……….zy…….” I remember saying this just before falling into a narcoleptic sleep episode.

I woke up several hours later, as M. was saying goodbye, and could barely remember the puppets’ visit – were it not for the garlic, honey and milk sitting on my bedside table.  After all, it’s been a tough week.  A young and dear friend of ours was in a crisis that we tried to help with, and is now somewhat resolved,  and now I am downed by what appears not to be a bad cold, but rather a flu.  So, I have moved from writer’s block to flu thanks to my students who came to class quite sick last week!  I think it is time for me to reconsider my attendance policy, but that is another story.  So, there I was in bed, with honey, garlic and milk, the 4th day in bed and without a voice, that was new.  I couldn’t call in sick to my boss as making the vocal chords activate is painful, so I sent an email, and while waiting for a reply to make sure the email was received, I googled “Turkish flu remedy garlic, milk, honey” to pass the time and to see if I could remember what the puppets told me.

As a former student of both medical anthropology and the history of medicine during my undergraduate years, I do love learning about how different cultures address health and illness – and I really wanted some new approach to use given my desperate state.

While I have written several times about the powers of good and bad air as framed by Turks I do and don’t know, I have not addressed how flu is treated on the home remedy front.  Luckily, YouTube provided the answer for what to do with the puppets’ gifts of garlic, milk and honey, not only with this video of some crazy American kids taking the advice of “a Turkish priest” by burning garlic, mixing it with milk and honey and drinking it (and feeling better, so they said) but more aptly with a Turkish commentator who responded to the video by suggesting boiling the garlic in milk and adding honey – which is what I forced myself out of bed to do.

Sitting up a bit after returning to bed with the concoction, I steeled my fingertips to the heat of the ceramic cup covered with butterflies and took a tiny sip. Not half bad, and it seemed to help me feel somewhat better, too. Let’s hope it cures writer’s block, too!

An image of Turkish pine tree honey for sale by the road (from Charles Fred's Flikr photostream)

This entry was posted in Cross-cultural learning moments, Turkish Food!, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The puppets finally show up with süt, çam balı ve sarmisak

  1. Jack Scott says:

    I feel your pain. Liam and I are laid up with the first cold for 4 years. I’d almost forgotten what it was like.

  2. Liz Cameron says:

    Ah – feel better soon. And seriously, this honey in the garlic milk thing works (simmer the garlic in the milk vs. take the crazy American college kid approach in the video). Gecmis olsun as you are flying soon, no?

  3. Alan says:

    . . the locals here drink a continuous supply of various herbal teas and plenty of ayran to keep the innards in balance, we follow along and it mostly seems to work with only a very occasional bout of the vapours. Hope both of the above feel better soon 😀

  4. Liz Cameron says:

    Interesting, herbal teas I can imagine – ayran – that makes sense but is a surprise. The mention of the vapours makes me think about the “miasma” of the late 1800s. I think it is hanging out over my Uni, the source of all sickness, apparently. Feeling better today, out of bed for the first time in 3 days!

  5. Liz Cameron says:

    Try the garlic-honey-milk cure – it might help! 🙂 Glad to see that it has been such a long duration BETWEEN colds!!!

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