The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘S’. Translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 52-year-old Punjabi mother, born and raised in North India.
I: So, do you have any remedies or recipes to follow when someone you know has come down with a cold?
S: Cold? Yeah, definitely.
I: Please describe the recipe and each ingredient, and why these ingredients would help someone with a cold.
S: Well, they’re supposed to be heat-inducing, primarily. So, you… you take gramflour—besan, we call it besan, that yellow powder—you take some besan and you roast it. Typically it was done in ghee (clarified butter, a South Asian staple), but we don’t really use too much ghee nowadays so I kind of dry-roast it, and you boil milk on the side, and if you want some flavouring you can add to it. You know, depending on what and who it’s for, you can add a little cinnamon, a little elaichi (cardamom), and… but you add that at the end, cinnamon you can add at the beginning. You dry-roast it a little, some, and you have boiling milk on the other side. You mix it all together and let it cook for a little bit, so that the gramflour gets cooked thoroughly, and towards the end of it you add your elaichi, or your cardamom, more cinnamon, whatever you want to add for flavour, and I-I like to do elaichi because the flavour is nice, it goes very well with it, and then you add… honey. I add honey. People like sweet, so I add a dash of honey, and cover it for a bit so the elaichi flavour seeps in. And there you have it! That’s lapsi. And in the end, I just add a teaspoon of ghee—because I don’t roast it in ghee but that’s the usual way of doing it.
I: Is this something you’ve been taught by family — is this a family recipe?
S: Well, this is just what I’ve learned by… I guess, just, seeing and hearing. My nani (grandmother) used to make it, then my mother, now me. We each use different flavours, yeah, depending on who’s making it and who’s eating it, but the base is the same.
I: And it’s always called lapsi?
S: Yeah. I guess everybody around me used it. You could call it a family recipe, yeah.
When it comes to ‘cures’ for the common cold, known medically to be viral and therefore virtually incurable, only something you can wait out, I’ve found that people in India do normally describe all of their remedies as having “heat-inducing” ingredients. While there is no concrete reasoning as to why these ingredients are such, within Indian culture, there are many spices and herbs believed to be so, used within these remedies, usually hot drinks or soups—another can be found in a piece titled “Kaadha: The One-For-All Remedy” (http://folklore.usc.edu/?p=59885)—and this is a long-standing recipe for this particular family. I have not found such a recipe for this ‘Lapsi’ anywhere else, including online, even though it has been passed down the lines of this family. Home remedies are extremely common in India, as they are in many places around the world, sometimes even preferred to allopathic medicine, because they rely on herbs, nature, spices, things that are ‘pure’ and gathered from the earth itself, not chemically processed. Even though it is common in some, primarily Western communities, to rely on allopathic/pill-based medicine and comfort food, when it comes to the common cold and other such illnesses, Indians gravitate to homeopathy and home remedies before anything else, from within the family and the community. Additionally, the common use of these hot soups and drinks makes sense, since they automatically would warm the body from the inside and cause relief from the cold.