i find henry ford's words pretty appropriate for what i'm going to write about, but though it does have to do with a type of consumerism, it doesn't have anything to do with automobiles or assembly lines. today i'm taking the quote to a whole different level.
and i like the quote because it lets me off the hook.
i'm living in a country that, on the one hand, fits me like a glove. on the other hand, and for the same reason, it has the potential of being a real stumbling block. why? because i love catering to my sense of taste, and mexico is one of the best places to do just that. not only are there myriad dishes and desserts to please the palate in all corners of the country, this is a culture of hospitality, where serving guests is both an honor and a welcome obligation. i have found it nearly impossible to "just say no" to the various taste bud temptations i am offered, so with the exception of pre-wedding abstinence in order to fit into my dress, i have proven myself an intrepid taster of all there is to try.
this is sometimes problematic. after living in the most culinarily diverse city in the world, i proudly assumed that my digestive system could not possibly be thrown for a loop. but i was oh, so wrong. i've gotten food poisoning twice in the last five months, and the same number of times have my intestines decided to go on strike, simply deciding not wake up and get to work. but instead of finding fault--with cooking methods, lack of refrigeration or good sanitary practices, or (most obviously) my inability to be a more selective in what i eat--i've decided to inquire after remedies. i'm also in the right place to do it, since home remedies reign supreme here, too.
actually, some of the suggested solutions have been unsolicited, but after understanding that the advice was not given in condescension but in genuine goodwill, i willingly incorporated it into my growing list of remedies, which include: teas of boiled flax seed or chamomile and honey, blended drinks of celery and pineapple, platefuls of papaya (which, to be honest, tastes a little like barf to me), daily doses of yakult (japanese fermented milk product containing lactobacilius casei), jello, ripe pears, morning spoonfuls of grape seed oil, anisette and...tequila. excluding the papaya and the oil, trying out the cures was almost as fun as getting myself into my digestive predicament in the first place.
but beyond this, there are two remedies that have been the most memorable for me, though i admit that neither of them really yielded any good effects other than those psychological in nature. in truth, the first one ended up keeping me awake all night--but i still don't regret trying it. on a trip to the market here in san pedro, i decided to pay a visit to one of the women who sells herbs and natural products that alleviate or cure just about any imaginable malady. i have no idea what the herb lady's table surface looks like, because it is covered--down to the very last millimeter--with everything from bags of burrs to bunches of aromatic bay leaves. i approached her with a "buenas tardes," and asked what she might recommend for the situation. giving it less than a second's thought, she quietly walked around to the far end of the table and began reaching into a bag full of leaves, long and narrow in shape, asking me how much i needed. i told her that ten pesos' worth should be enough, so she began filling up a plastic bag for me with handfuls of the brownish-green leaves. i asked her what it was called, but despite my best efforts to remember its name, by the time i returned home the word had successfully hidden itself away deep in the mental ravine of forgotten vocabulary. patricio didn't know what it was either, but he boiled some up for me in a tea that night. he is so good to me...but that tea sure wasn't. i spent the night flopping around in bed like a beached whale in a state of constant discomfort. it felt and sounded like a beast of considerable size was having a wild rumpus of sendakian proportions inside my belly. by the next afternoon, the beast had finally worn itself out. it left me worn out as well, but laughing inside all the same.
the last remedy involves common practice for what everyone decided i had: an empacho. you, much like i was, are probably wondering what on earth is an empacho? put simply, it is an illness that occurs when the digestive system is supposedly blocked up somewhere, attributed to the existence of a residual food or other material stuck to the stomach lining or intestines. yuck.
it still seemed like a pretty unusual diagnosis to me, and as it turns out, it is widely considered to be a culture-related syndrome, the characteristics of which are: that it is understood and accepted by a particular culture or subculture; that it has pathological causes representing and symbolizing core implications and patterns of behavior of this culture; that the diagnosis depends on particular cultural knowledge and conception; and that success of treatment depends on participators of the culture. according to a dr. roberto campos navarro, even in the 19th century doctors were questioning the empacho as a real clinical entity. not a single medical text, foreign or national, listed or described it, and since the beginning of the 20th century, academic silence surrounding the illness has been absolute. i say all this not to deny the reality of empacho, but to explain its strangeness to me and my subsequent skepticism.
in the end, though, i accepted the diagnosis and decided to go along with the treatment, too. first, patricio gave me an enormous spoonful of olive oil and lime juice. then he proceeded to massage my belly with pan puerco. pan puerco, literally translated as "pig bread," is a brown pomade that's made and bottled in small laboratories. a mixture of animal fat, jalapa root (whatever that is), ginger, and other herbal ingredients, the final product costs less than ten pesos (roughly one american dollar) and is sold in just about every independent pharmacy in the city. though not very pretty, it still felt nice rubbed around on my stomach. post pig bread, patricio then turned me over to massage my arms, back and legs, moving everything toward my spine. not so bad, right? not done, yet! starting where my neck meets my shoulders, he worked his way down my spine, grabbing and pulling the skin up until it "popped." if that sounds painful to you, you are absolutely right. in theory, all the bad vibes from my muscles are released that way, in addition to setting free the empacho.
i can't claim that it helped my intestinal tract much, but i really appreciated the concern, care and attention of my husband regarding the situation. it also felt good to be a recipient of a culturally-unique home remedy, passed down in the oral tradition over hundreds of years. in that, i see undeniable value .