It’s funny how things go in circles and leave you wondering why it takes so long to complete the loop. My mother has always been impeccably groomed – my Dad says she is the only woman he knows who puts on a hat and gloves to do the washing. He is joking of course – but it is his way of saying that he had never seen my Mum not well presented. I am sure she must have had her “bad hair days” – we all do – but I can never remember seeing her looking unkempt or shabby, myself.
I can remember when we lived in Big Bell and my brother (who is three years my younger) was about two. My Mum would lie on the floor of the lounge room of our house and do her pelvic floor exercises. It fascinated me because she could move her tummy muscles in a very visible manner and make the weirdest noises with her insides. She always told me it was very important for women to keep their inner core muscles strong and to be fit.
She drank lots of water and always had a glass of fresh lemon juice with water before breakfast. Of course, I got to taste it, screwed up my nose, made a horrid face and could not believe that she would willingly drink such a sour concoction. Her reasoning was simple: lemon juice is very good for keeping your skin clear of pimples and for helping remove some of the excesses of life from your body.
As I grew up, lemon juice was well known to be great for helping cure a sore throat, and hot water with lemon juice and honey were “de rigueur” in winter for helping to recover from the flu. As was homemade chicken broth. To this day, I love a hot lemon and honey drink. She also taught us to use Cream Of Tartar to clear up mouth ulcers and keep your skin clear of breakouts. She told us then, 60 years ago, that cream of tartar was a natural product that occurred when grapes where being turned into wine and it was extracted from the fermentation tanks. It is a natural salt, created when tartaric acid is half neutralized with potassium hydroxide. My Mum also knew how to use it with Bi-Carbonate Soda to make her own baking powder for scones and sponges and cakes; to make egg whites stiff for Pavlovas and to make her own version of Play-Doh for us kids.
As a teenager, a final rinse of my (then) naturally blonde hair with strained lemon juice slaked with equal amounts of water would leave it shining brilliantly and we girls fancied our hair would match anyone in a Palmolive Shampoo advertisement for silky smoothness. I remember when my cousin Joyce was staying with us and one afternoon, we decided to wash our hair outside. It was blazing hot in the Perth summer sun and we lay the hose out to its full length along the black Bayswater sand, bringing the water to almost boiling temperature in no time at all. By the time the two of us had washed our hair twice, rinsed it twice, conditioned it and rinsed it again and then enhanced it with our lemon juice rinse, I suspect we had used about 30 gallons of water.
Apart from the copious amounts of water running down our nubile teenage bodies to help keep us cool as we attended to our hair, we needed to keep the sand wet – because the lawn was somewhat patchy near the tap and the heat was ferocious. The water was so hot as it came from the hose we had to decant it into buckets half full of cooler water drawn from a separate tap.
You know nothing of heat underfoot until you have tried running barefooted across the nefarious black Bayswater sand in summer – where even the poor grasshoppers would try to climb up the stems of the Guildford grass to keep their feet off the ground.
All my life, I have used Cream Of Tartar to help with “inner cleansing” but left the lemon juice to my Mum. Indeed, I can remember Robbie saying one day (when he was displeased with her over something or another) “She LOOKS like she drinks lemon juice”. But my Mum has had the final laugh. Only recently , I have learned that although lemon juice is acidic, it is a weak acid and within the body it creates a response that is extremely alkaline. Fresh lemon juice will promote the release of sodium bicarbonate to support enzyme activity and the lemon fruit itself is converted into potassium citrate. Since I have suffered for years from severe cramps brought on by a lack of mineral salts in a body that is naturally highly acidic, Cream Of Tartar was not actually my best friend!
I now drink the juice of half a lemon every morning in a glass of water which is having a highly beneficial effect in balancing my pH levels and my skin is as smooth as the proverbial baby’s bottom. Indeed, the health benefits of the common, much overlooked lemon bear some investigation by any woman who wants to maximise her healthy glow.
I recall being at breakfast with a bunch of blokes when I was a financial planner and one of them asked me if I would like him to pass me the sugar for my coffee. Without thinking too hard I responded “Yes please. I have been known to be a little tart, first thing in the morning.” One responded with “well, don’t know about you guys – but I am not going there!” It was very funny and we laughed a lot. Being sour is sweet – just now and again.
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(c) Lesley Dewar July 2012 to current.