As a child I was always car sick. I always had to ride up front like some little Fauntleroy, sitting usually on newspaper (the ‘new’ thinking of the time) and with the side window open with a breeze on my face, come summer or winter. Alongside my father, driving, would be chain smoking his Players cigarettes. In colder months, my mother sitting behind might well have been wearing one of her fur coats heavily protected by stinking moth balls. To counter the open window, the heater would be on full setting. You get the picture – you have experienced similar childhood trauma in a softly suspensioned Vanden Plas or fat Rover saloon?
Even today I can’t read in a car for more than a few minutes without feeling sick for half an hour plus. Flying and rail are fine – but a rough sea is none too good. At around 10 years old, on a ferry to Calais, my father once urged me to drink a large Cognac to “settle the stomach”. Bull corn, if ever there was counsel. It made me sicker than the roughest boat ride could possibly have done. Even today, a whiff of cheap brandy and I recall that crossing.
Time moves one – car sickness left me as I became a driver and love nothing more than soaking up hundreds of miles across Europe in my classic red Audi hot coupe. But I still suffer nausea – we all do – and I have discovered the guaranteed magic cure that is fresh Ginger - Zingiber Officinale.
We use ginger in cooking, but that’s a different thing. I still have a childhood loathing of preserved or crystallised ginger root a Christmas. No, I am talking about nothing more complicated than an infusion of fresh ginger root.
We buy large fresh pieces from the Chinese supermarkets – it’s never fresh enough in regular shops and they over-charge grossly. Without even peeling away the outer skin of the rhizome, we grate it roughly – one good, fat handful makes a pot of ginger tea. A pot is about 3-4 cups. That’s plenty enough to settle the most nauseous of tummies. I’m told the Chinese always take it with rock sugar – sugar is good for the tummy too. I prefer mine without.
My partner Joy has travelled extensively in Asia and says that most people travel with a piece of ginger in their cheek to ward off travel sickness.
Researching this piece, I learn to my absolute pleasure that the Burmese prefer freshwater fish to those caught at sea – so they use ginger to ‘mask the marine tang’ of sea fish, says Alan Davidson in his weighty Oxford Companion to Food.
Like the Chinese say, fish is only really fresh when it doesn’t smell of fish. Think about it – they’re right.