A conversation was had between the informant and myself. The informant can be known as MC and I will be known as MH.
MC: So there is a saying that goes “chicken soup is the Jewish penicillin”.
MH: What does that mean, and is that recognized by the jewish community?
MC: I mean, I am in the Jewish community and I grew up with my family making that joke all of the time, so I would say based on my experience yes. And it stems from the idea that if you are sick, somehow chicken soup will cure you of all your ailments in a way that actual medicine – or penicillin- could never.
MH: And what are your thoughts on the topic?
MC: Honestly, I have been very sick and then ate chicken soup and felt better almost immediately after, so there may actually be some truth behind that statement. Obviously there are other deeper systemic reasons for why certain communities do not like going to doctors and instead use a more homeopathic approach, but the sentiment remains.
The informant is a member of the Jewish community and also studies public health. And while she does not always agree with homeopathic approaches to medicine, she says that she can;t help but recognize that there is truth in a lot of the methods used.
The informant is a friend of mine and the conversation was held over facetime in a very casual setting as we talked about different approaches to health care.
I am in a similar vein of belief with her. I do not know where I stand in believing in homeopathic methods. But they have often been used for centuries so there has to be levels of truth to them. Because anything that people dedicate that much time to has to have a certain level of importance for one reason or another.
“So, back when I was doing HIV work I used to hear this joke all the time from my gay patients. It would go something like, ‘What’s the hardest part about having HIV?’ and the gay guy would say, ‘Convincing my mom I had sex with a Haitian. *laughing* ”
Context: This joke was performed at a dinner party whose guests were primarily family, with the informant being the father of the collector. The joke was said midway into dinner while the guests and informant had been drinking wine.
Informant Analysis: The doctor who said this joke had done much work during the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s and 90’s. At the time, it was more of a secret for men to be gay since it was largely deemed “deplorable” by the average American. Today, this sort of anti-gay rhetoric has decreased. Many of the doctor’s patients were gay, had HIV, but also had a wife and children. They kept their sexual orientation hidden to their families and friends. However, when the HIV epidemic began to ravage America’s gay population, it was often difficult to hide the fact that you were gay since getting AIDS was considered a sign. Along with being gay being a sign of having AIDS, it was also common belief that Haitians also had it since there was and still is a high percentage of HIV positive people in Haiti.
Collector Analysis: The joke seems to play on the taboo topic of coming out as gay to one’s mother. It seems to show that, especially during the 80’s, being considered gay was completely out of the question for many homosexual males. Instead of coming out as gay after being diagnosed with AIDS, the patient would rather say they got it from sex with a Haitian. The joke itself hinges on the fact that the highest percentage of HIV is found in homosexuals and Haitians. The humor also makes light of a situation which, especially during the 80’s, was considered a death sentence. Medical humor, including this joke, often contains this sort of dark humor to try to lessen the pain involved with such terrible situations.