Harley Hay

Harley Hay: Just don’t call it cod liver oil

Many people swear that a daily dose of various vitamins is an essential ingredient in healthy living. A good point, but do they have to use bad language when talking about vitamins?

Vitamin C, especially in “mega-doses” consisting of a choking down a bucket full of C every day is always a good one to have an argument about with those who think that repeated vitamin C mega-binges will cure just about everything from gout to goiters.

Vitamin B12 is often mentioned as something that helps prevent “anemia” which apparently is when you feel weak and tired, which may or may not mean I’ve had “anemia” for a heck of a long time now. And if vitamin B12 is so good, shouldn’t someone invent vitamin B 22, at least?

And of course, vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin” is popular because it comes from the sun (I think) and we like the sun here in big-sky Alberta, and also it says on a bottle that it helps build strong bones which is a good thing especially if your bones like to be strong.

Now, I’m no doctor – at least not legally – so these comments should not be construed as recommendations, especially if they happen to lead to any kind of lawsuit. But I do in fact add a few vitamins to my daily diet of fast food and chocolate. In fact, I recently ran out of good old D and when the Better Half brought home a new stash, I immediately noticed that something was different. Instead of seeing a bunch of small, easily digestible little pills when I opened the bottle, out came a handful of golden oval capsules. And immediately, a proverbial bolt of lightning hit and the time machine suddenly wrenched me back to South School about a hundred years ago.

Sitting in Grade 3. Mrs. Lougheed’s room. A typical morning. Sitting in our desks for our daily dose.

Daily dose? Can you imagine if schools today passed out pills to the students every morning? What a kerfuffle that would be. But back in the day, as many folks of a certain age will no doubt recall, little clear amber capsules were handed out to every student every day. We dutifully took our “medicine” so to speak, and mostly grew up to have strong and happy bones, and altered brains that allowed the government to monitor our thoughts.

At first our daily dose tasted somewhere between rancid swampwater and fetid fish brains, but it’s amazing how you get used to something after a few years. By Grade 3 most of us had quit spitting out the soggy capsule and hiding them in our desks, and my rowdy mates and I had daily contests to see who could keep the slimy dissolving capsule in their mouth the longest.

At key intervals when Mrs. Lougheed wasn’t looking, we would stick our tongues out at each other to show the depleting remains, sitting on the tip of the tongue like a dead slug until a winner was determined.

We eventually discovered, however, this “healthy source of vitamin D” was something called “cod liver oil.” And when we geniuses eventually figured out that cod liver oil was actually from the actual liver from the guts of an actual cod fish – that’s when we started surreptitiously spitting them out again.

But back to the future the other day, for old time’s sake, I popped a shiny new capsule and immediately tried to see how long I could keep it in my gub. But it wasn’t very long and it didn’t taste really, really bad.

It was kind of disappointing.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.

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