Tag Archives: sickness

Sick Foods

Growing up, when the informant got sick, his parents would always feed him the same boxed chicken noodle soup. He remembers it coming in small red boxes. He would also get biscuits, or crackers if they had no biscuits. What he was given to drink was always seven-up, though when he was older this was sometimes swapped out for Gatorade. Recently, he found some other people online whose parents had also given them Chicken soup with seven up when they were sick. He was also told to lie down on his left side, which he still does occasionally and it seems to work fine.

He has absolutely no idea why these foods were the specific ones that he always got. He can understand Chicken noodle soup and biscuits being good foods when sick, because they are warm and rather plain/simple when it comes to flavor/spices, but can’t for the life of him figure out why bubbly seven up was in there. He thinks the lying on his left side might be to help with digestion, but isn’t sure why it’s specifically his left side.

I think the informant is correct that the foods are chosen based on being simple and palatable for a sick stomach, as well as warm. I think always the same so that when a child is uncomfortable and sick, they can be comforted by having some structure and consistency returned to them via the food they’re given while they’re feeling weird and foreign. I’d imagine that the seven up is given to the children because it’s tasty but not all that hard to digest, so the value it brings the child through enjoyment of their meal helps them feel better more than any sugar in it would make their sickness worse. I have no better guess than my informant on why he was told to lie specifically on his left side.

Lithuanian Folk Simile: “Healthy as a Radish”


Original script: “Sveikas kaip ridikas.”

Transliteration: “Healthy like radish” / “Healthy as a radish.”

Free translation: “Snug as a bug in a rug.”


IZ is a 20 year-old college student from Lisle, Illinois, living in Los Angeles, California. Both her parents’ families immigrated to the United States during World War II and remain connected to their Lithuanian roots through strong immigrant communities in the US.

“My dad loves this one,” IZ said about this folk simile. She described it as one that is only used around close family members and said by adults to children in an affectionate manner. “It’s a little silly,” she said, “because it rhymes.” For this reason, we chose “snug as a bug in a rug” as a potential free translation of this phrase, since it preserves both the rhyming and silly tone of the saying, as well as its social dynamic of being a saying communicated from parents to children.

IZ recalls both her father and grandfather using this expression to communicate comfort at times of sickness — a time when one has a red face, alluding to the color of the radish. She emphasized that it would only be said informally among family, from adult to child.


As IZ explained this folk simile to me, she was quick to mention her association of these words with her father. This represents the power of folklore to be associated with a specific person even as it is a broader cultural production. I would infer that many other Lithuanian kids are reminded of family upon hearing these words. 

The strict confinement of this phrase to the nuclear family serves to define the boundaries of the family to young children as they learn social dynamics. Additionally, the knowledge that this phrase is only said to children implies also a knowledge of what is appropriate language to adults.

This proverbial phrase also contains variation in that it can be applied to diverse instances of redness, including from the cold. Lithuania is a country with very cold winters and moderate summers. I can imagine potential variation in this phrase being applied to redness from the cold. An ironic application could refer to redness from drinking — this would subvert the norms of only using this proverbial phrase toward children. More research is needed to see if this is an existing variation of the phrase.

The appearance of radishes in this phrase speaks to the cuisine of the country. Lithuania’s climate is suited to growing root vegetables, including radishes but also potatoes and beets.

Don’t Sleep With Wet Hair


Informant is a Chinese-American student at USC.

Main Piece:

“My family was just so convinced that like, nothing is ever dry until it’s bone dry. So I would go to blow dry my hair, and they’d be convinced, ‘no, it’s still wet’ and I would just keep on going, and they wouldn’t let me like go to sleep with like wet hair because I think they were just being like, ‘Oh, you’re gonna get sick’ and I was like, ‘No, it’s fine.’”


This conversation was recorded in-person.


Not sleeping with wet hair is something my parents have also told me. It’s a folk belief that is loosely tied with medicine/sickness, with the belief being propagated by the fact that it will scare children into drying their hair properly (though as my informant shows, at a certain age this wears off). There are probably scientific reasons either proving or disputing this claim, but considering that it was much easier to get sick pre-modern era, actions easy to control like drying your hair would probably be focused on the most.

sana sana colita de rana si no sana hoy sanara mañana

Background: Informant is a 19 year old student. Their parents both grew up in Venezuela. Their mom’s side is Spanish and Italian and their dad’s is Spanish and Israeli. Informant is from Texas and Miami and now resides in Los Angeles. They identify as Latin American and Jewish.

Informant: So in most Latin countries when a child or someone has a wound or a tummy ache, either an older person or a loved one touches that spot or massages that spot and says, “sana sana colita de rana si no sana hoy sanara mañana.” And that means, like the literal translation is “heal heal frogs tail and if it doesn’t heal today then it should heal tomorrow.”

Me: So, do you remember the first time this was used? Or is it kind of ever-present? 

Informant: Just growing up all the time whenever I was sick or had a tummy ache or if I hit myself when I was younger. I remember the first time that someone did it to me it was my grandma and like, as I was growing up my parents started doing it more as a joke. But it’s still like, if I’m having cramps or whatever my mom is like, “sana sana colita de rana si no sana hoy sanara mañana.” So it’s almost like a superstitious thing like you say it and it heals you or more like a comfort thing. 

Reflection: I loved hearing this story from my friend. It was so sweet to hear this saying come out of their mouth, as you could hear the child in them and the comfort it gave them growing up. It’s so sweet to see the ways different cultures make sense of pain and help kids go through hard things. I felt I could really relate to this experience as I think it’s universal to a certain extent.

Iranian Flu Medicine

Main Piece

Heat up one whole lemon and 3 garlic cloves until soft and mash with a fork. Strain the mixture and take one spoonful every morning to prevent sickness. 


My informant was born and raised in Iran. She remembers the flu, and how it ravaged through her elementary school. Her mother, to protect her, made a blended concoction consisting of one whole lemon, including the peel and pulp, and three or four cloves of garlic. Because she did not have any kitchen equipment that could properly blend the ingredients together, she resorted to heating up the lemon and garlic until it was soft enough to mash with a fork. After mashing, she would strain the mixture to get rid of any extra-large pieces, and fed one teaspoon-full to my informant every morning before school. My informant adds that she hated the taste but took this “medicine” every morning nonetheless because her mother insisted it would keep her safe. My informant concludes that the medicine must have worked, as she was the only child in her class that did not fall sick with the flu. 


This medicine is made when someone is sick or in danger of falling sick. The purpose is to prevent or cure illnesses. 

My Thoughts

Being born and raised in America and going through the American school system, I never paid much attention to medicinal practices that were not Westernized. When my informant told me about this medicine, I was skeptical and doubted that it would actually be effective. But further upon further research, I discovered that the ingredients used in this recipe contain many natural antibiotics and vitamin C. Therefore, the workings of this folk medicine are completely logical and valid. In America, Western medicine is the widely accepted practice, and most ethnic home remedies are frowned upon. But there is logic to these home remedies, or they would not be so widely used in other countries. Using ingredients such as garlic in folk medicine is an ancient practice. For further information about garlic’s role in folk medicine, see the cited article under the subheading titled “Medicinal History.”


Kilham, Chris. “Garlic.” MEDICINE HUNTER | Medicine Hunter, www.medicinehunter.com/Garlic#:~:text=As%20a%20folk%20remedy%2C%20garlic,gastroenteritis%2C%20and%20to%20expel%20worms.&text=The%20father%20of%20medicine%2C%20Hippocrates,and%20for%20healing%20abdominal%20growths. Accessed 18 Feb. 2021.