Special things

After reading Edie’s post on Monday, I thought about all the ‘special’ things that I’ve come across in the various places I’ve lived. You know the things I’m talking about, the remedy everyone in a certain town or place swears by, or the special food or drink that it is practically essential you love if you come from a certain place, and becomes part of the fabric of that place.

I grew up in South Africa, which is the only place rooibos tea grows. Now, rooibos grows on the west coast of South Africa, and I grew up on the east coast, and while it was certainly available on the east coast, and I had it a time or two, I didn’t like it and it was never a problem. It was more a case where you had to specifically ask for it, if you wanted it, than it was the automatic choice.

photo credit: Akuppa via photopin cc

photo credit: Akuppa via photopin cc

But then my husband and I moved to a small town within throwing distance of just about every rooibos farm in the country. Suddenly, when someone offered me tea, it was going to be rooibos, and being the new girl, and also the only English-speaking girl, I smiled and choked it down. Again, and again, and again. Until . . . I got the taste for it! Hooray. Now I love it, and drink it often. It is freely available in Australia (where I live now) and in the UK, and I think the US, too. And talk about a cure-all remedy. Honestly, you’d think rooibos could bring about world peace, if everyone would just let it. I know especially in the area where it is grown, it is considered a wonder cure for everything that ails you. It IS high in antioxidants (much higher than any other tea) and it is naturally caffeine-free, so there you go, straight away you’re on a roll. But it is hailed as cancer-inhibiting and all manner of other things. Rooibos is most definitely one of those ‘special remedy’ things.

photo credit: talios via photopin cc

photo credit: talios via photopin cc

Another South African icon is the breakfast cereal, Pronutro. A South African friend of mine here in Australia’s husband is from the UK, and he once described Pronutro as something he would imagine would be included in a UN Hunger Aid food drop. LOLOL! And it was not said in a complimentary way, but with a note of absolute horror. I think it’s a case of you need to have grown up with it. All I know is that my kids are never so happy as when I have some Pronutro in the house, and they always choose it over any other cereal. It is tiny dried flakes of corn and soy, to which you add milk and stir, and comes in Chocolate, Original, Banana, Wholewheat Apple, and Strawberry flavours. You can buy it anywhere in Australia, and at the South African Shop in London, and I think most South African parents have a smug sense of having done really right by their kids if they get a bowl of that in them in the mornings.

photo credit: thenoodleator via photopin cc

photo credit: thenoodleator via photopin cc

In Australia, the horror food of choice is Vegemite. Honestly, like Pronutro, those who haven’t been raised on it cannot understand the attraction (count me in, here). Whereas if you get a group of Aussies together and talk Vegemite, they can all sing the tv commercial jingle back at you, and go on about it putting a rose in every cheek and so on. They swear by their Vegemite. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about Vegemite is a dark, salty, vegetable extract spread which you would generally put on toast or bread. Shudder.

A much more pleasant Aussie cure-all, and my good friend, women’s fiction author Therese Walsh will back me up here as I gave her some, once, and it really worked for her, is Lucas’ Papaw Ointment. Dry lips? An insect bite? Burn yourself on the iron (this is what Therese did)? Behold, the magic of Lucas’ Papaw Ointment. You can buy it everywhere and everyone has a tube of it somewhere, either in their handbag or in a drawer in their house or in the bathroom.

So, is there something in your town or state that everyone swears by? Something that’s particular to your part of the world and is part of what defines you as a group? Let’s hear about it!

About Michelle Diener

Michelle Diener writes historical fiction and fantasy. To find out more about her and her novels, you can visit her website.
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6 Responses to Special things

  1. Edie Ramer says:

    Rooibos tea is easy to come by here now, though I haven’t had it in a while. The next time I go to the store, I’ll get some. It has a rich, unique flavor, and I did enjoy it.

    In Wisconsin, we’re known for our beer and cheese – none of which have health benefits, but they taste good! Brats (bratwurst) and custard are also popular here. Again, no health benefits, but they taste good. I’m beginning to see a pattern!

  2. Like Edie, I’m originally from Wisconsin…lots of cheese and, my favorite thing, freshly made ice cream. (It’s kind of good for you… ๐Ÿ˜‰ )
    When I was on my Aussie student exchange, I was forced — I mean, *encouraged* — to try Vegemite. (Shuddering along with you!) I could sort of, after a while, get used to it on Saltine crackers, if it was spread very thinly, and I did bring a jar of it home to share with my family and friends. Most of them have finally forgiven me, LOL.
    Must try that ointment you mentioned, though!
    Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Fabulous Spring Reads!

    • Marilyn, LOVE the comment about friends and family finally forgiving you ๐Ÿ™‚

      Yes, I was lamenting not being able to give my kids peanut butter sandwiches in their school lunchbox to someone (nut free policy in the school) and they said why didn’t I give them vegemite sandwiches instead, and when I said my kids didn’t like vegemite, she literally couldn’t believe it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Michelle,

    I have rooibos tea in my cup! And there is vegemite in my cupboard! Of course, I’m Canadian and we are downright weird. ๐Ÿ™‚

    The vegemite is for my one son who loves and several of us drink the tea. Being Canadian and living in Kelowna, we are know for our many award winning wines and of course fresh fruit – Kelowna is an agricultural haven that focuses on orchards!

    And we’re known for fresh lakes. Put them together and you’ll find me many afternoons sitting and enjoying the water with a glass of wine and a fruit salad! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Dale Mayer`s last blog was …New Release! โ€“ UNBOUND

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