A Feast of Folklore

By Ben Gazur

From witch cake to wassailing, strange stories of Britain's food.

Tuesday, 17 January 2023

Food Folklore Remedies


It has been a little while since I last posted an update. Please forgive me. I fell a little ill last year but thankfully I’m back up to full speed and ready to get to work on this book – which may be soon as we have just crossed the 90% mark on the crowdfunding! Thank you so much to everyone who has pledged!

I thought I’d have a little look at some of the folklore cures that people have turned to in the past to try and get better which involved. Luckily I didn’t have to resort to any of these as you have to be a bit braver than I am to stomach most of them. But if you wonder how folk medicine was done read on. Please don’t try any of them at home though.

If you have a child who has a touch of whooping cough there is a relatively simple solution. All you need is a bowl of milk and a ferret. Place the bowl in front of the ferret and let it drink some. Snatch up the bowl before it can finish the lot and feed the rest to the child. If that doesn’t work you could try the alternative version which was to cut some of the child’s hair off, mix it with milk, then feed some to both the child and the ferret.

Of course if you lack a ferret you might be stuck. Simple! Just get some milk and let a live trout swim in it. Then have the child drink the milk to cure them of their cough. Whether this is healthy for the fish is debatable.

It was not always the child that had to eat decidedly dodgy bits of dairy. In 1878 a grandmother from Essex described her infallible cure for whooping cough. “You must cut a little hair from the nape of the child's neck and make it into a ball with some fat, but butter will do, and lay it on your front door step, and the first dog that comes by will eat it. My little Bill [her grandson] was bad, and I tried it for him. I had hardly laid the fat on the steps when Master Edwards (the shepherd) come by, and his dog snapped it up, and the child never whooped again." What the dog thought of this treat is not recorded.

I’ll leave you with another buttery medical tip from Shropshire. If you have a burn you should mix goose dung with the middle bark of an elder tree. Fry this up in butter that has been churned in May and apply to the injury.

Thanks again for all the support. With your help we’ll get to 100% soon and this book of food folklore will be in your hands in no time!

Hope all’s well.

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