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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine Flu and Onions?

(Photo is of another ancestor, The Lambert Family, of which the younger ones pictured would have lived during the Flu Pandemic of 1918-19. Family portrait taken 1905.)

If you've read my blog for any amount of time, you know that I love posting stories from my past...and occasionally from my ancestors' pasts. I love reading up on their histories which helps me to understand myself--where I came from, why I believe what I believe, and how my personality compares to my ancestors' personalities. In this case, it's all about my husband's family. You see, our past shapes who we are and where we are most likely to go in the future. We have to acknowledge our past to embrace the future.

I received an email Monday morning from a cousin by marriage. She and I both enjoy researching family history, and so when the recent news of the Swine Flu came out over the news she decided to check out what our ancestors had to say about the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919. This is what our Grandma Dieter had to say:

"In the winter of 1918, there was a flu that was all over the world. Gene was in France at this time and there were folks all around dying. One man lost his wife and two children with this flu. The doctors sent out word to the whole community to get a hundred-pound sack of onions and eat them three times a day, anyway you can. Boiled, fried or raw, just eat onions. It seemed to help all right.

They sent riders out all over the community to tell everyone that there was a special Sunday set aside for a prayer day. The sickness started in November and when this rider was sent out at this time it was in the spring. The flu did finally die down, our family did get it, but not as sick as some of the other families.

We were well enough though to take care of our chores and we went down to the King Family and helped them out with their chores at nights for two or three days, which was about three and a half miles from us. Mr. King and the children were all down with it, but we didn’t get it so bad that we couldn't take care of our own work. It was all over by February or March, but up until then it was a worry for everybody."

Onions. Mmmm, onions. Or maybe not.

I sat and contemplated this onion story all day Monday trying to figure out a natural compound that onions might have that would help prevent the virus from showing symptoms or that somehow killed the virus off. After extensive research, I couldn't come up with a viable solution except one.

You remember the last time you had onion soup or ate a Sonic Hamburger #1? Well I do...the meal had my sweat, breath and skin wreaking of onions within a couple hours. And showering would not get rid of it. So the only reason I could think of as to why the doctors back then would ever recommend onions is that:

No one would want to get near you for days. I'm just sayin'.

And on a much sadder note, I found what my husband's family also experienced after additional research on my own:

"When the Flu Epidemic hit so many people in 1918-1919, Mama was the only one allowed to help out in many homes. Uncle Ralph Peacock was very ill. Then Mama became ill, so she carried in water, which she drank, heated rocks and locked herself indoors until she recovered--very ill and suffered a miscarriage. Then Uncle Lynn Peacock became ill. The two uncles passed away two weeks apart."

(Signatures of a Peacock Family from 1919, related to husband's family. Photo Credit.)

I sincerely hope that we are not seeing the beginning of a pandemic. I am certainly relieved knowing that I live in a time where modern medicine is also a modern day miracle. I further pray for those families that have lost loved ones as a result of the complications of this virus.

And no, I don't recommend eating onions to ward off the Swine Flu. Although French Onion Soup with pork broth does sound quite appetizing at the moment.


Expat From Hell said...

Eating at Sonic may be the answer to all of our problems. At least, that's what I always thought! Your combining your family heritage with the current issues of this flu is excellent - what a great tradition you are preserving with this writing. As are so many things these days, I think some of this is overblown. Have to make for great news. Keep eating those #1's....!


Carol @SheLives said...

I don't know about onions, but I do know that making chicken soup with fresh ingredients, using chicken on the bone, does have some sort of antiviral properties. The name of the compound is even listed in medical journals (was listed in the PDR back when I was still working as an R.N.). By anti-viral, I mean fights an existing viral infection, not that it can prevent one.

Anyway, I've never had chicken soup without some onion in it. That's where I was going with all that.

Pony express pharmacists?

Really interesting about the family history back then. You're blessed to have such records available.

Mindee said...

Did you ever read Holes? There's a great onion legend in that one too that supports your theory!

musicsinmyveins said...

I'm heading off to the outback restaurant... for a blooming onion.. They are Onions do have medicinal properties.. as does garlic so I guess I'll just have to smell for a bit.. Nice family story. I enjoyed it.

Ashlie- Mommycosm said...

Thanks, now I'm craving onion rings. YUM.

How cool is it that you have such great records of your family history?! We have a ton of pictures, but no real written account.

Iva said...

Awesome job! Thats great you have such a history of your family!

Screwed Up Texan said...

The onion story was so interesting when I first got a hold of it and I wonder if others were told to do the same or if it was a regional thing (Utah area). Can't wait to do more of these family history stories in the future.

Nancy said...

Yah, reading things like this inspire me at the thought of the strength those before us had.

Becky said...

I find it interesting you had a Sophronia in your family. My DH's grandmother was Nancy Sophronia.

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