My informant is a 56-year-old IT technician from rural Ireland. He related to me a story about the kinds of foods his mother would make for him at home when he was sick as a child. This particular food, called goody, but pronounced ‘goddy,’ was a mixture of bread, milk, and sugar that was boiled together as a kind of folk-cure for general ‘unwellness.’ Despite associating it with being sick, it is one of his most memorable childhood foods. He is signified in this conversation by the initials D.O.
D.O.: My mam would make goody for us when we were sick as kids. I think it’s similar to the flat 7up thing, you’re trying to get sugar back into your system if you’ve been ill. What you do is you boil up a pot of milk, not too hot, and then you rip up pieces of white bread usually and throw them in, until most of the milk is soaked up, but the bread is pretty wet. Kind of like very eggy French toast. And you let that boil for a minute and then add in sugar and mix it up, and it kind of turns into a thick soggy bread mixture. It’s great though, kind of like bread and butter pudding for children.
A: And why would she give you that, and not soup or anything?
D.O: It was probably a combination of getting some sugar back into your system, and giving you something you actually wanted to eat even if you felt terrible. It was also made up of cheap things that you’d have in the house – bread, milk, sugar – so it wasn’t using up valuable resources. It was said that it would soak up all the badness in your stomach if you were sick and it would settle nausea because the bread would soak up the acid.
A: Where did your mam learn it from?
D.O.: It’s a common food back home, it would usually be the first port of call when you were sick. But I think it’s always been popular, but not as much anymore with modern medicine.
The interview took place over the phone as he is in Dublin and I am in California. The context of the conversation was folk medicine in the vein of the ‘flat 7up’ cure.
This kind of folk remedy relies on children’s love for all things sweet, whilst serving an actual medicinal purpose by using the bread to soak up the acid in a person’s stomach if they had a stomach bug. It served many purposes outlined by the informant, but perhaps one not present is the idea that when one is able to eat again, they are getting better. A kind of placebo effect, similar to the idea that people who have doctors with white coats get better faster, by giving children sugary food that they would not normally get when they are well, which they want to eat, they feel like they must feel better, which in many cases leads to people actually recovering faster. Therefore, this folk remedy may well have two scientific bases behind it, despite it being labelled as “folk” and therefore seen in opposition to modern medicine, and actually be a good way to help cure viral infections which are not affected by antibiotics.