Not So Secret Remedies

I like being sick, it’s true, because it slows me down and forces me to pay attention to things. That said, I can always count on Guatemala knocking me off my feet for at least a week with germs that make me wish I hadn’t used so much antibacterial everything in the United States. I did my best to do the just walk it off and attend to business as usual: heading West to “Alaska” near Santa Catarina to help some friends on Saturday, going to Sumpango for the Kite Festival on Sunday, heading off to Guatemala City at 4:30 AM to get my Alaskan friends into Roosevelt Hospital (another post on that), but come Monday night I couldn’t even muster enough energy to check my email and my teeth actually hurt.

“It’s official, I’ve never seen you this sick before,” Brad declared at noon while I was sprawled across the bed. I called myself on it because on Thursday night I lectured mi abuelita on the importance of not taking Western medicine all the time and just letting the body learn what it needed to learn about the germs surrounding it. Public health babble aside I did stumble upon two magic potions for revival:


Mar y Tierra Restaurant’s fish soup with corn, ayote, potatoes and wiskil. I had them make it this way for me because crabs, snails and shrimp freak me out. This pescatarian special to revive dead people from germy, mucusuosy graves is Q70. They do take out so I was grateful: 2 a. Avenida Sur, final #81, Antigua GT 5399-4345, cell: 5912-9416.

The other remedy was quite unexpected. In my sickly sweaty state I walked into my semestresses’ shop (because I simply had to be productive in some way or another) and she looked at me and shook her head, “Pobresita!” She called her husband who looked at me from underneath his bifocals, shook his head and said, “I think you need to give her the recipe.”

“Mire pues,” she said and I knew I needed to pay attention. “Usted es Guatemalteca y es importante que sepa esto para poder cuidar de otros. Pues aquí se lo escribo, es fácil.” I always worry when I hear the phrase: “it’s going to be easy, just remember that.” She wrote down the letters: T-O-M-E.

  • T is for Tomillo – a few bunches of that. I got lucky because she happened to have a few bunches.
  • O is for Ocote – just a few pieces. Ocote is some kind of tree bark used to light fires. Apparently you can find this in the mercado but I was too tired for all the usual market activity.
  • M is for Miel Blanca – Lots of white honey. Not sure how it’s different from regular honey. I’ll ask mi primo about that, he just went to a bee conference last week in Antigua.
  • E is for Eucalipto – 4 leaves of Eucalyptus.

Once you have all these ingredients, boil them together, add the honey and perhaps a lime for good measure. Even though we didn’t have ocote, we cooked it all and I drank it all up. It was very soothing, but now that the germ warefare continues and night presses on, I think sleep will also do the trick. My kingdom for an ocote!

4 comments on “Not So Secret Remedies”

  1. I showed Yolanda the recipe and she said- O, ella tiene la tos. And said it’s a very good remedy. Then I showed her the soup and then she said- well, she’s not that sick if she’s eating that. I found that part a little funny. But I hope you feel better.

  2. I hope you’re feeling better! Tree bark huh? Too bad you weren’t able to grab that ingredient.

  3. Actually Ocote is the resin impregnated wood from the heart of the trunk of Pine trees.

    I can remember years back breaking off some myself from a lightning struck pine tree in Zacapa.

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