Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Russian Cold Remedies

Been sick yet this season? In Russia, you wear down the cold! In keeping with cold and flu season, here’s a rundown of traditional Russian cold remedies. None of these will cure your cold, of course, but all will make you feel better when you’re going through boxes of Kleenex and rubbing your bleary eyes.

Tea: Tea is the Russian cure-all for everything—illness, hangovers, heartbreak, you name it. Brew yourself a pot of strong Earl Grey (see my user-friendly directions) and choose your add-in: lemon and honey, raspberry jam, or a good splash of brandy...okay, vodka.

Raspberry jam: Whether you add it to tea or eat as is, Russians say raspberry jam is good for colds. I’m neutral on this.

Oatmeal with raisins and butter.
Kasha: I don’t know if this counts as a traditional Russian remedy, but it helps me when I’m sick. Kasha* (каша), in Russian, is any hot cereal, such as oatmeal or cream of wheat. It's usually made with milk, not water, and it’s good comfort food when you’re out of sorts. Eat with a big pat of butter. You can afford the calories when your immune system is weak, you know. (*Kasha refers to buckwheat in English--in Russian, however, buckwheat is called grecha/греча.)

Hot steam: This one’s fun. Boil some potatoes in a large soup pot; drain when done. Lean over the empty pot, cover you head with a blanket—and breathe. The steam’s supposed to clear the nasal passageways. It’ll also open up your pores--kind of like a DIY spa treatment! Save the potatoes for salad Olivier, if you manage not to sneeze all over them.

Gogol-Mogol: Also on the weird side is this eggnog-like drink. I have no idea if it helps cure colds, as I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid it. Gogol-mogol involves mixing a raw egg with honey, hot milk and butter. Here’s a recipe.

Chicken noodle soup with meatballs.
Soup: Chicken soup, of course, but any kind of hot soup will do.

This is by no means a complete list. For more Russian cold remedies, including non-edible ones—ground mustard on your socks, anyone? —check out this blog.  And share your favorite cold remedies, Russian or otherwise, in the comments.


Marina said...

My (Russian) grandma's cold remedy: hot orange juice with vodka and honey. It's actually pretty good (but don't know if really has any healing properties!)

Lo said...

Love these remedies!

We often opt for a netti pot to clear out our sinuses when we have a cold. But, that pot of potatoes would definitely make a great steam treatment... kinda like the "pasta water facial" we often experience at our house!

We also swear by drinking lots of hot liquids, "upping" our vitamin C intake, and eating plenty of fresh garlic to boost our immune system!

Michael said...

Gogol-Mogol is extremely tasty. You don't know what you are missing out on. :-) By the way, I would discard the white and just use the yolk.

kcmeesha said...

Gogol-mogol must be nourishing,I seem to remember liking it. However,I hated rubdowns with rendered goat fat.Now that's cruel and unusual

piccadillous said...

How funny that you should post this now! I'm just getting over a case of food poisoning. (yuck!) Not quite the same as a cold, but it still brought out the differences between Russian and American remedies. For instance, who's heard of ginger ale in Russia?? On the other hand, my mother's recommendation to drink risovyi otvar (water that's left over from boiling rice) seems too weird for me to try.
My American husband and I often joke about how confused our kids will be when they get a cold and I'll be offering them hot tea while he's giving them a popsicle! :)

Unknown said...

I remember loving gogal mogol because I got my mom to put extra sugar in it haha! Also, I remember her crushing berries like raspberries and sugar and saving it for the winter to eat with tea.

Anna said...

LOL! Love the post... My grandma would add cocoa powder or chocolate to gogol-mogol since I remember it rather chocolaty. I've also ingested seltzer mixed with milk for cough and a milk/butter/honey mixture for a sore throat.
The raspberries are good for when you have a fever as they're supposed to induce sweating, thus lowering your body temp. At least that's what I've been told.
And what about boiled eggs for nasal congestion? (you're supposed to roll a still-warm egg across your nose, where the sinus congestion is)
Do you remember "mustard-stickies" (garchichnik, I think) like the stuff you put on your back for pain only it's coated with mustard? Those are painful! As was the alcohol rubdown. Not quite sure for the purpose of that one, but I guess it's to reduce a really high fever...

Mrs. M. said...

Marina--I've seen recipes for hot cranberry juice with liquor and honey! Sounds good to me.

Lo-Yes, pasta water is the same kind of deal. I've never tried a netti pot, but heard good things about them.

Michael--I wouldn't mind trying it these days.

Kcmeesha-do you remember the warm "compresses"? I recall those being unpleasant!

Piccadillious--Ginger ale and Gatorade have never made sense to me. I'd *never* get anything cold when I had a cold in Russia--certainly not a popsicle or ice cream!

Elona--Frozen raspberries w/sugar are almost as good as the real thing...

Christina'Marie said...

Ha, I LOVE that you shared the link for the recipe of gogol-mogol, my husband loves this stuff and only ever heard of it from him. He'll be so surprised when I make it.

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