Caring for my Mom
Last week my mom was very sick, and I flew out to California to be by her side and nurse her back to health. Our family was tense and frightened. We felt powerless with such a lack of control over what was happening to her. I didn’t know how to fix the problems going on in her body or how to soothe the tension in my own.
I had to get in touch with what was sacred to me. Some people meditate, pray, or chant. I make soup. The oldest soup in the book.
The day my mom was released from the hospital, I went to the store and bought a whole organic chicken and veggies for a classic chicken soup. I found the bay leaf bush in mom’s backyard and picked a few leaves off. I opened a bottle of wine, poured myself a glass, and some into the soup.
Something in the Soup
I quickly felt better, knowing that I had control over what was going into our bodies to nourish us. I went through the ritual of making the soup, and as it simmered in the pot it filled our home with the essence of love. It was so soothing watching Mom eat that bowl of chicken soup. It put a smile on her face, and I saw her whole body relax and release all that trauma from the hospital. The soup restored her as it had restored me. It’s true what they say about chicken soup being Jewish penicillin! There is definitely something sacred about it. Food is more than just nourishment for the body, it is nourishment for the soul.
Of course the foundation of a great chicken soup is a delicious broth. Chicken stock is very easy to make from scratch and really makes a big difference in the finished project. If you prefer to use store-bought stock just skip ahead to the chicken soup recipe below.
HOMEMADE CHICKEN STOCK
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, washed, white and pale-green parts only, cut into thirds
2 carrots, peeled, cut into thirds
2 stalks celery, cut into thirds
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup white wine
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Any fresh herbs that you have on hand, alone or in combination, about 1 bunch (such as parsley, thyme, etc..)
2 bay leaves
3 1/2- 4 pound chicken, cut into pieces
12 cups water
Heat a large stockpot over medium heat. Warm olive oil and add in the leeks, carrots, celery, and salt. Saute about 5 minutes until the vegetables are starting to brown. Pour ½ cup white wine into the pot. Cook, stirring, until the pan is almost dry. Add another ½ cup white wine and cook again until it’s almost all evaporated. Add peppercorns, fresh herbs, bay leaves, and chicken to the pot. Add water and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a very gentle simmer, and cook for an hour. A skin will form on the surface of the liquid; skim this off with a slotted spoon, and discard. Repeat as needed.
Remove chicken from the pot, and set aside until it is cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones. Shred the chicken, and set aside until ready to use. Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a very large bowl. Discard the solids.
CLASSIC CHICKEN SOUP
3 quarts chicken stock (homemade or store-bought)
Cooked chicken, chopped into bite sized pieces (from your whole chicken if you made your stock from scratch)
2 leeks, washed, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
2 stalks celery, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 cup egg noodles, optional
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Bring chicken stock to a simmer on the stove. Add in chicken, leeks, carrots, celery, and noodles if using. Let simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Just before serving, add in parsley and dill.