Six Practical Tips I learnt from my Granny Madge.
Granny Madge loved flowers!
My Granny Madge.and her Granny Tips!
At some time in our lives, we have all benefited from what I would call “Granny tips”, those invaluable practical recommendations that always seem to work! My Grandmother Magdalene (Madge) was no exception and throughout her life, was a fountain of interesting information, most of which she had in turn obtained from her mother, another Magdalene, whose life must have been a fascinating study.
Here are some of her tried and true lessons. What is so interesting is the fact that these ideas come from the 1800s and maybe before that, and are still in use!
1.- Want to make a successful jam/jelly? Always add some apple!
I know for a fact this works, Granny Madge always made preserves, and added apple to everything! It did not change the taste, and certainly improved the texture, avoiding watery results for jams, jellies and the like. Her recommendation was to chop the apple into small pieces, including the chore and the pips, as they contain the most pectin.
In the old days, you could not get powdered pectin such as is now available. In fact I don’t think it’s all that easy to obtain in Chile even now and this is probably true in a lot of countries the world over.
Granny-lore always said that the apples should not be very ripe, and it was a frugal idea to use misshapen or damaged apples for the preserves. Another important aspect was the use of the whole apple, core and pips included.
Now how did these older generations learn all these concepts! Would it be through trial and error? I’m under the impression that these practices are hundreds of years old, but I cannot conceive just how they came about. Does any historian know about the results of any research of these lore that are handed down from generation to generation? It is a mystery to me, I must admit.
Potato with Sprouts
2.- The eyes of the potatoes must always be cut out!
A very reasonable recommendation, as the eyes look really ugly and off putting!
It wasn't until I was teaching rural families living in the dry-lands about using sprouts to increase their intake of fresh greens, that I discovered that all the sprouts of the solanaceae or nightshade family, including the tomato, the potato, paprika, or aubergine (eggplant), are poisonous. I’m sure nobody mentioned this fact while my grandmother was still alive, so it is pretty safe to conclude that she didn't know. However that may be, it was still quite clear to our forbears, that the eyes of the potato, from which the sprouts emerge, had to be removed! Interesting!
A quick browse on the Internet tells me that potato sprouts are considered toxic due to a concentration of glycoalkaloids. Symptoms of this toxicity include headaches, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains and such. Even when cooked, the potato sprouts continue to maintain their poisonous levels, but the potato itself can be cut away, cooked and eaten safely.
Well, the potato is believed to have been cultivates for nearly 10.000 years, although it was only introduced in Europe when the Spaniards conquered the Inca Empire in the 16th century. Genetic studies have traced the origin of the potato to the high Andes regions of southern Peru and Bolivia. So when did everybody learn to remove the eyes of the potato? This must definitely have been a trial-and-error situation! I can just imagine the ancient hunter-gatherer families rolling around in pain after eating the sprouts! That would be a good basis for the lore to spread, I think!
Bowl with granulated sugar
3.- Ants in the sugar?
Just put the open container in the sun!
This tip works like magic! You need to be careful that something else doesn't get into the sugar, maybe by covering with a net that still allows the ants to abandon the premises, but all you do is put the open container in the sun and leave it for a while. When you go back to check, the ants will have departed!
I can see this would be a problem in places with little or no sun, but the alternative solution will always be feasible: turn the sugar into liquid syrup. The ants will float on the surface and can be removed. If some get into your cup of tea, it doesn't really matter, they are not harmful if swallowed and are obviously dead. Anybody who never saw the ants in the sugar while still alive, and that includes finicky husbands and children, will think the little black speck is a piece of tea leaf.
Twelfth Century Headache
A modern Headache
4.- Do you have a very bad headache?
Lie down with a covering of raw potato slices!
This is another tip that works like magic and is not so well known. I have used it frequently, and it is really good.
You take a good sized potato, peel it and slice it into rounds that are not too thick, but that are relatively firm. Lie down and plaster your forehead with the slices, enough for one layer, and keep the spare for a little later. Place a large handkerchief over the slices to help keep them in place. Relax! After about 30 minutes to probably an hour, check the potato slices and your headache. You will probably find the slices all shriveled and dried out, and your pain much better. If necessary, repeat with the remaining slices. and that’s it!
This is certainly much healthier than taking aspirins or other painkillers, cheaper too. And the potato draws all the heat out of your head and feels very pleasant!
It is really extraordinary to see the way the potato slices shrivel up, as if subjected to intense heat!
A very swollen ankle!
5.- A bandage soaked in strong brine for a sprained ankle or wrist.
This is certainly a tried and true solution for a puffy, swollen and very painful ankle!
I’m sure that this is a tip that many people are familiar with. My question would once again be: how did our forebears learn about these solutions? Where did the information come from?
When I was growing up, and falling off my bicycle and crashing into obstacles while roller-skating, and so on, this “medicine” was automatically put into use. Mind you, the best salt for the brine, is rough sea salt, the rougher the better. Refined salt does work, but it is not the thing!
Nowadays I find myself constantly recommending this solution, and I’m very often met with blank stares! But my doctor, who is relatively young, does recommend it still, in fact when my hand got swollen with arthritis, he told me to soak it in hot brine, and as usual, it worked!
6.- A grit in your eye? The solution is easy!
This is another infallible Granny tip. Just do as follows:
- Close both eyes – not so difficult, as that’s probably what you are doing anyway.
- If the tears are running, just let them run, it helps!
- Lightly place whichever index finger is most comfortable for you, left or right, over the other eye, so that you can feel the eyeball through the eyelid.
- Start moving your finger in circles, always turning towards the inner corner of the good eye. You should feel the eyeball rolling slightly under the light pressure of your finger.
- Keep at it with some patience!
- After a short while, as you feel relief from the pain in the affected eye (which is still closed), you can try to open this eye and look for the grit.
- The eyelash, or whatever the grit was, should appear at the inner corner of the affected eye, having travelled from wherever it was previously, and is then easily removed! Neat, huh!
- If by chance the grit has not arrived at the inner corner, just go on circling, it will move!
This last Granny tip is one of my favorites, I have done it countless times, both for myself and for other people, and it is so much easier and less painful than trying to fish around in the eye itself with something to scrape the grit out!
I have always been filled with admiration by these Granny Tips! They are such a varied collection, and have proved so useful over time. I believe everybody should make a point of collecting the practical tips that have come down through various family members and which constitute such interesting family lore.
© 2012 joanveronica (Joan Robertson)