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.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. 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. 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!