Ginger and the White Death

Ever since I was little, I have had trouble with motion sickness. Mal de mer.

This has always been annoying, for everyone concerned. But, it became obvious that I needed to deal with the problem, when we left on our first long trip, in 1977. We were a month too late leaving that year, and we waited in Neah Bay, WA, for a weather window to go to San Francisco. But there weren’t any. It looked like we could be stuck there till Spring. So, we finally just left during the tail end of one nasty set of weather, with the weather guessers promise, that the next cataclysm would not arrive for a couple of days. At which time we would be further down the coast, and well offshore.

The Pacific Coast from San Francisco north to Canada, especially near Neah Bay, is a graveyard of sailing ships, that were too close to the coast, and could just not escape being blown ashore. So we went out about 100 miles at the furthest.

When the oncoming gale hit, I was worse than useless. I was a liability. I’m sure that the only reason that I was not thrown overboard after about a day of uselessness, was that I’m too heavy. And they could not get enough people around me, inside the cabin, to carry me out and toss me over. Being big is not all bad.

Happily, it did not occur to them to just dismember me into more manageable, easily carried pieces.

I became an expert on anti-nausea medication and even woo woo treatments.

On that subject I would say the two most important things that I learned, are that Stugeron 25 mg, is for almost everyone that uses it, a miracle drug. But, you should start taking it the night before if possible. Because if your digestive system shuts down, as it tends to do in the early stages of mal de mer, the Stugeron cannot get into your bloodstream, and does you no good whatsoever. You can however sometimes get relief while you are already at sea, if you appreciate that this situation looks like it’s developing into a Stugeron time, and take it as soon as you realize you’re going to need it. This will often work. AND, after two or three days at sea, you can usually stop taking it, because you now have your sea legs. All the other medication that I ever tried, prevented sea legs from forming. So as soon as you stopped taking it, you are puking again.

The second thing is WHATEVER you decide to carry for protection, try it on land, when you are not unusually tired, or feeling funny in any way. Everything is wonderful in your life. Then take the normal doses for perhaps 36 hours and see if anything changes. Some useful medications practically give you narcolepsy. You just can’t keep your eyes open. So how are you going to stand a watch?

Back in the 70s NASA came out with a prescription combination of an upper and a downer, that the astronauts used. Naturally I got my doctor do give me some. Unfortunately, I discovered that I, and many other people, find that it MAKES them have vertigo on land! It makes you feel queasy.

The other man on board and I had taken it shortly before we left, and we didn’t throw up, but we felt really miserable until we got to the next port and stopped taking it. We were storm bound for a couple of days, and then the weather guesser said that we had a weather window, so we took our pills, and started getting the boat ready for sea.

But when we got up on the cabin top to take off the sail cover, we could see GIANT whitecaps, looking a lot like the Rocky Mountains, all down the saw tooth horizon. Not our favorite kind of weather especially when the wind is straight on the nose.

Happily the captain decided to wait another day, so we went for a walk. And both of us noticed that our pills made us feel VERY wobbly.

This was not the same as land sickness. That is when you have been at sea for several days and come back to shore. Living on the boat seems perfectly normal, but when you step on land, it feels like the sidewalk is going up and down.

This was different. Our heads were spinning.

I had a almost identical experience with scopolamine patches.

But, for me Stugeron 25 mg, works fantastic. It’s chewable, with a kind of neutral taste. No sleepiness. Just makes me immune to the motion. Do you want me to change the oil? Sure. Hand me the roll of paper towels.

But, the reason this all comes up was, that when we are in the states I buy a pound or two of crystallized ginger. This really helps settle my stomach, when I have the occasional small concern. So, I like to keep it around.

And, yes, I know about the little electric bands that are advertised to protect you from seasickness. I have some friends that used one when they were caught in almost a survival storm, in the Gulf of Mexico. She said that she had it turned up to the, “Grill a Buffalo” setting. Full military power. And then she lay in a fetal position on the cabin sole for about a day. Feeling absolutely miserable the whole time. Punctuated by every few seconds, she would get this profound electric shock, that would make her twitch all over. Electric chair time.

She said that it probably works for the seasickness. The main thing that was worrying her was the certain knowledge that she was about to die a horrible death. But she survived. And they still sail all over everywhere. Another learning experience.

The NSAID’s that I had to take for my dislocated rib, really messed with my digestive system. As soon as I stopped taking the proton pump inhibitor, my stomach began to bother me quite a bit. Since I REALLY wanted to stop taking the darn proton pump inhibitor, I would use occasional doses of crystallized ginger, to get through this transition period while my innards healed. Combined with frequent meals of carefully chosen foods, to give my system something to do other than dissolve itself.

That meant that I now was low on crystallized ginger, with no plans to return to the US just yet. So, I figured, they have ginger in the market here. How hard can it be to make my own? Actually it was not hard at all.

The fiddly part is peeling all the ginger. It does not grow in the shape of a smooth monolith, like a quart jar. And, of course, I want to ONLY remove the peel, so I tried to be very careful. Especially after I broke my only ceramic vegetable peeler.

I found several recipes online, each of which was quite different, but basically the same. So, I peeled and thinly sliced some ginger. 500 g, about a pound. And then I boiled it for about 40 minutes in water.

And then the idiots that wrote the recipe, said throw away the water! HELLO!! Haven’t you heard of ginger tea. That’s what that water is. In fact it’s like superstrong ginger tea. Atomic powered ginger tea! Even I have to dilute it. But I’m not about to throw it away. Put a little in the water that I use when I cook rice. But, keep it to use.

This resulted in me having about 350 g of boiled ginger to which they wanted me to add 350 g of sugar. Known in health food circles, as The White Death!

Being, at least mostly, a Good Boy, I have probably only eaten a gram or two of White Death in the last year and a half. But, this is for a good cause. I was creating medicine, and not a delivery system for White Death.

So I cooked it for about the time they said, but I noticed that the sugar syrup was getting much thicker than seemed like a good idea. I’m no brilliant chef, but I know that when you have boiling sugar water, that is starting to look quite thick, that when it cools, that you are going to have hard candy. And my previous crystallized ginger was leathery and chewy and tender.

So, I aborted the instructions, and they said to put it on a cooling rack, that you have sprayed with Pam or some similar nonstick spray. Naturally, I have neither one, but it seemed really simple. The crystallized ginger that I have always had is coated in crystals of sugar, White Death. So I just finished out some of the ginger. Encouraged it to drain as much as I could, and then dropped it in a bowl, with a thin layer of sugar in the bottom and kind of tossed it around to get it coated.

Then I would fish it out and put it on a plate to cool. Which brings me to the main reason I felt compelled to write about this interesting experience.

We have hundreds of wonderful, charming, interesting friends in America. And some of them, while we were homeless in the USA, trying to help Janet, wanted us to housesit for them. And some of those people had cats. And most of those people had litter boxes.

The similarity to fishing the pieces of ginger out of the sugar, and servicing the litter box, struck me as quite startling. Fortunately, I usually have pretty good control over what sort of memories I associate. Otherwise, that might’ve been the end of my crystallized ginger right there.

By the way, I tried some after it had completely cooled, and I pronounce it to be every bit as good, as the stuff from Whole Foods. Although, if I could buy some, I would rather buy it than make it. I’m a cheapskate, but ginger is expensive to begin with, so the price of the finished product from Whole Foods, did not seem a bad trade-off at all.

Be careful with crystallized ginger though, it is a very efficient White Death delivery system. You did today. Wear it tomorrow.


1 thought on “Ginger and the White Death

  1. Back in my hippy days when I used to smoke a fair bit of what I now consider a noxious weed, (as far as smoking is concerned) I found that said noxious weed helped me function in rough weather. It converted me from the stage Dave talks about prone in my bunk, to being able to clean and replace all the still in their container items from the fridge off the galley floor.

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