If someone were to take a survey asking “What do you think is the single activity engaged in by the largest number of human beings?”, I’d be surprised if the number one answer would be anything but sex.  But this time of year, I suspect that running a not-too-distant second would be fighting upper respiratory infections (URIs)

Although my generation has had and continues to have sex, it also tends to be a generation of “kiss, but don’t tell”, which may explain why we so freely discuss our shared URIs and their myriad manifestations.

My most recent URI, which I’m not quite over yet, was exacerbated by violently inflamed residual tonsil tissue; my voice would crack like a 12-year-old boy’s, and sometimes disappear entirely.  Typically, everyone of my generation with whom I spoke was most sympathetic and exceedingly generous with unrequested advice, which I won’t reiterate here, because there wasn’t really anything I hadn’t heard or tried before.

I resorted to that old reliable standby, black tea, a squeeze of lemon, and a splash of honey.  At night, I would add a generous shot of rum to the brew, considerably enhancing its efficacy, and buying me a bit more uninterrupted sleep.  But then I ran out of rum.

As I am primarily a wine drinker, the contents of my liquor collection, ensconced in the deep recesses of my china cabinet, are a bit of a mystery.  On those rare occasions when I venture into the liquor lair (usually looking for something with which to “season” the fruit cake that annually finds its way to my door via the largesse of a distant, albeit, well-meaning(?) relative), I confront a series of bottles, none of which contains more than one stiff drink, but all of which are capable of triggering liters of memories.

Recently while I was in the midst of the above-mentioned illness, I went poking around in my liquor collection, seeking a bottle of cassis, the black current liqueur I’d purchased to accommodate a friend who returned after a short stay in France, an expert on kir, the wine and cassis cocktail.  Enough of the liqueur remained for me to add a decent shot of it to some freshly brewed black tea…excellent!  Probably the hot tea alone (with maybe a bit of honey?) would have helped temporarily relieve the congestion, but the cassis seemed to enhance the tea’s soothing qualities.

At about this same time, I read about ginger root as a remedy for a cold’s misery in a syndicated column by Joe Graedon, author of the popular People’s Pharmacy, which was one of the first best sellers in the “holistic” medicine movement.  The brew requires fresh ginger root, which at the time I didn’t feel like shopping for, and I wasn’t about to ask anyone else to pick it up for me, because I figured trying to explain why I needed fresh ginger root would be so complicated I’d probably lose my voice in the process.

Well, I finally got the ginger root, and following the simple directions contained in the article, brewed some ginger tea.  I first peeled the off the outer layer, using a regular vegetable peeler, then cut the peeled ginger into six pieces, lengthwise.  I dropped the pieces into a cup of water boiling on the stove, allowed the water to return to a boil, slapped a lid on the pan, turned off the heat, and allowed the beverage to steep for five minutes; I strained the liquid into a cup, added about a teaspoon of honey, and tasted.

The flavor was way more spicy than ginger ale, but the honey added a lovely mellow sweetness and it is definitely something I’ll add to my arsenal of cold remedies, because although my congestion was mostly gone, my breathing just seemed easier.

It should be noted that fresh ginger and the ground ginger that comes in jars are not interchangeable, and the latter cannot be used as a substitute for the fresh.

Hope you won’t need this remedy, but put it in your files, it’s a keeper.