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Some people with the sniffles turn to an Eastern European remedy to relieve symptoms


As long as the sniffles have existed, so have home remedies for them. For people with roots in Eastern Europe, one of those remedies is known as gogl-mogl. As Deena Prichep reports, it's the stuff of childhood memories, both good and bad.

DEENA PRICHEP, BYLINE: It's hard to pinpoint the first appearance of gogl-mogl.

EVE JOCHNOWITZ: It seems to be one of those things like chicken soup. It's always been there.

PRICHEP: Eve Jochnowitz is a Yiddish teacher who researches the history of Jewish food.

JOCHNOWITZ: They begin with grinding up the sugar or some honey, mixing it with the egg yolks and then beating in hot milk.

PRICHEP: There are slightly different versions of this recipe. Sometimes a shot of brandy or slivovitz was thrown in, occasionally some chocolate. And Jochnowitz says it was found across Europe.

JOCHNOWITZ: From Czechoslovakia in the west, as far as the borders of the Russian Empire in the east, I would say.

PRICHEP: And with immigration, gogl-mogl made its way into America. The late New York City mayor Ed Koch gave out his version at a press conference in 1987.


ED KOCH: My suggestion is a minimum - if you really want to get cracking on the cold - a minimum of three gogl-mogls a day.


PRICHEP: In a recent interview on WHYY's Fresh Air, singer Barbra Streisand recalled her mother recommending it after her first real gig.


BARBRA STREISAND: The first thing she said, I remember, was, your voice needs eggs. You have to use a gogl-mogl 'cause your voice needs to be stronger.

PRICHEP: Now, some people have sweet memories of parents and grandparents bringing a gogl-mogl to their sickbed, but a lot of people dreaded it, especially when the egg was raw, like in the gogl-mogl Barbra Streisand's mother made.


STREISAND: Which I could never swallow - ugh.

PRICHEP: This concoction has become more of a memory, likely due to the rise of over-the-counter medicines and lowering tolerance for giving raw eggs and alcohol to children. According to Michal Korkosz, a food writer in Poland, you can still find gogl-mogl in Eastern Europe but as a dessert. And even then it's seen as a relic of the past.

MICHAL KORKOSZ: During the Communist times, where there was no sweet treats in the stores, my mother - she would make the gogl-mogl at home.

PRICHEP: The Polish version is more like an egg foam, a cloud of just whipped eggs and sugar, like the beginning of a sponge cake.

KORKOSZ: It's so fluffy. It's so creamy. It has its richness.

PRICHEP: But Korkosz says sometimes when someone was sick, his grandmother would pour in a little hot milk, turning this dessert into a remedy.

KORKOSZ: Sweet treat but somehow, milk makes it a medicine, right (laughter)?

PRICHEP: Which raises the question, does gogl-mogl actually do anything medicinally? Dr. Diane Pappas is a pediatrician at the University of Virginia who researches cough management in kids. She says, meh.

DIANE PAPPAS: We don't have any really good evidence that honey does a whole lot for a cough. There's a few studies that say it might help a little bit. They're not great quality, but it's really all we have.

PRICHEP: Pappas says if you want a gogl-mogl, go for it. Calories and warm fluids always help. And as long as the egg is fully cooked and you're not giving honey to infants, it's fine.

PAPPAS: I don't know that there are downsides unless you put the alcohol in it. I don't know that there's a huge upside either.

PRICHEP: Pappas says while she can't ethically prescribe placebos, that affect can play a role in all sorts of things people take, hoping to feel better. And Polish food writer Michal Korkosz says there's also the comfort of tradition.

KORKOSZ: I always compare dishes from our childhood as like a warm blanket. They're, like, so cozy, and they are so delicious. They reminds you when you were the happiest in your life.

PRICHEP: Which may be the perfect thing when you're feeling crummy.

For NPR News, I'm Deena Prichep.


ADRIENNE YOUNG: (Singing) It's a home remedy when you put your arms around me. I know the working day is through. tell me not to live. Just sit and putter. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Deena Prichep