A Cordiall Water, MFK Fisher


This slim book, "a collection of odd and old receipts to cure the ills of people and animals," is magical, and a palliative in and of itself. 

Not all of the folk remedies resonate these days (I likely will not wear a bag of asafoetida around my neck, nor will I try Dr. Nintle's Crawfish Broth), but some of them sound rather soothing. Delicate onion soup, for instance, in which you peel and thinly slice a large mild onion, then wilt it in one tablespoon of butter and combine it with a cup of hot milk,  is supposed to be useful for a common cold; it might be worth a taste later today, given my snuffling and hacking.

What is most interesting is not the recipes themselves, but Fisher's acknowledgement that sometimes the best "cures" are really only a blend of "incantation, mystery, and faith." She describes the "little slice of ham" once (still?) served to patients in France as a treatment that, "especially when taken in bed with a little glass of wine, will cure completely or at least help cure the following: exhaustion, migraine, grippe, gout, disappointment in love, business worries, childbed fever, dizziness, coughing, and indeed almost everything else except Death and Taxes." Indeed, people "will react to the balm of a quiet room, and of a simple meal, spiced with the extra sauce of loving care and consternation."

As Fisher writes, "A certain gesture at a certain time, the inner warmth ... the trustful obedience---healing, it is called!"