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On Family Recipes

Written by Meghan Rhodes MCPP MAPA

There are plenty of colds going round at this juncture of the seasons, as the winds and temperature fluctuate to the tune of Spring and Summer’s dance and the wheel of the year prepares to turn another notch. This is quite natural at the greeting of any two seasons, just as it is when any two people pass responsibility from one to the other. No matter how perfect your heirloom family recipe is, each generation makes its own tweaks and adjustments, each new hand adds their mark in the margins.

I was reflecting on this idea of family recipes as I prepared a fresh batch of our go-to get-through-a-cold herbal tincture blend. The original recipe came from the brilliant practitioner and tutor in my herbalist ‘family tree’, Anne McIntyre. It’s effective at supporting us through most family ailments, with a bent towards clearing the upper respiratory tract, and yet it’s slowly grown and evolved over the many years I’ve made it and we’ve used it (just as I know it has in her own apothecary).

Sometimes the herbs included change based on what’s to hand when I need to make a fresh batch. Other times, it depends on what we need a bit more of - like rose, for heart holding (although it’s not a coincidence rose is also a brilliant supporter of the lungs!). Regardless of whether I’m making it because we’ve run out mid-cold or because I’m replenishing our supply for the next time, which could be a year or more in the future, the intentions that go in are always the same - health, love, and support.

rustic notebook, dried herbs, a mortar and pestle, vintage glass bottles and scissors on a wooden table top

And although it varies, my husband always recognises the taste - especially when combined with my homemade herbal cough syrup. ‘Hello, old friend,’ he says. (I believe that’s going to become its new official name - who doesn’t need a few steady swigs of an Old Friend when they’re not feeling well?)

Families used to have these recipes, passed down through the generations - not just for festive table treats or reliably satisfying meals, but also for medicines. If we’re incredibly fortunate, we may have a faded diary or recipe book with some of these precious family formulas in them. But if we don’t, it’s never too late to start. It’s part of remembering our natural human heritage, reclaiming the ownership over our health we once had, and relearning this invaluable knowledge - not just for ourselves, but also to pass down to future generations.

It doesn’t have to be perfect or beautiful. Let your children and grandchildren who walk on ahead of you see your notes, your experiments, your trials, your successes (and invariably, your spills). The important thing is to write it down (and if possible, make it legible, of course!) to preserve the knowledge you’ve brought back to life from getting lost again.

So pick a notebook, any notebook, and write down your family recipes. I know your pages will be looking forward to the dance with your next of kin when the time comes for the wheel of life to turn.

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