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September 24, 2009



Browsing in a foreign drugstore can also be interesting. When I visited London many years ago, large placards in Tube stations advertised something called "J. Collis Browne's Compound." It claimed to be a
valuable remedy" for coughs, colds, bronchitis, diarrhea, and "stomach chills." The placards looked like patent medicine advertisements I had seen in the then-popular reprint of an 1890s Sears catalog. So my parents and I went to a chemist's shop to see what it was.

The shop clerk said J. Collis Browne's was "very good for old-fashioned complaints." A small bottle cost something like 30p, and looked like a Victorian artifact, which it indeed was. The ingredients included opium extract, chloroform, and alcohol-- a popular Victorian-era remedy called "paregoric," and indeed quite effective for coughs and diarrhea. I had no idea what a "stomach chill" was until many years later, when I experienced one during a bout of flu. In the chemist's shop I was also amazed to find "nerve tonics" on sale, along with Kaopectate (the classic Kaolin-Pectin formula) sold in large brown glass bottles.

More recently I made a rather hilarious discovery in a Montreal drugstore. My trip to Quebec was with a friend who then lived in St. Louis; we traveled separately and met up at our hotel in Montreal. When I the door, he informed me that he had brought an uninvited guest, a nasty cold virus. It made him miserable, and as soon as he started to recover I came down with it. (Could this be another reason to travel solo?) So I went to a drugstore in search of some decongestant spray. In the "cold remedy" aisle I noticed a box of "Pholcones" suppositories. The labeling, entirely in French, said they were for a sore throat!

After I finished cracking up, I concluded that my French probably wasn't as good as I thought it was. So I went to the (bilingual) clerk and asked about it. She said it really was for sore throat and colds, and that it was quite popular in France. No, I didn't have the courage to buy it and treat my cold "a la francaise."

Christine Gilbert

This is so true! I always try to make it into a shop, just to see what they have.


Thanks for the crazy story, Ted.

As I tweeted yesterday, I'm off to Mexico in less than a week and will report back on the food in both the shops and the home I will be staying in, if that part all works out.


I love purchasing products in other countries, I know just enough Spanish, Italian and French to make a fool of myself, but I can usually get my questions answered. One of my favorite things is to look at the different flavored potato chips in different countries, as expected Jamon Jamon is popular in Spain, Saveur Poulet Roti et Thym (roast chicken with thyme) and Spaghetti Bolognese in France, Bife Criollo (Creole beef) in Argentina, Dill Pickle in Montreal, Lime in Mexico, and Roast Lamb in New Zealand.



Flavored potato chips! You've touched on a fave topic of mine. We Americans touring in New Zealand were amazed at the crazy flavors. The ones you mention are all new to me. Jamon jamon. How great is that? It's Ben and Jerry-esque, only savory instead of sweet.

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