Chicken Soup for the Bored Soul

We’re ringing in 2010 like it’s 2009! For the second year in a row the boyfriend is laid up with a cold and I find myself making another pot of chicken soup to help with his recovery.

As a kid, I hated chicken soup. Hated it. I associated the soup with illness because the only time my mother would make this medical cure in a pot was when one of us was sick. Between the ages of 8 and 18, I came down with strep throat twice  a year – once in the spring and once in the fall. There was a lot of soup.

My mother is not an out-of-the-box type of woman. If she can make it from scratch (within reason, we’re not talking making her own bread and churning her own butter) she will. She’s also an amazing cook. I grew up with hand mashed mashed potatoes and homemade apple pies. During the summer she kept a garden in the backyard and grew tomatoes, lettuce, peas, beans and garlic.  To this day I won’t eat tomatoes at a restaurant because they are sickly slimy slices sitting sadly on the plate, a poor contrast to the small yet vibrant juicy red orbs cultivated by my mother.

When I started cooking for myself I assumed I would cook simple and utilize my microwave as much as possible. I’m lazy and I hate to generate dirty dishes. Strangely, I started cooking like my mother, though I had always ignored her when she asked me if I wanted her to teach me to cook. Stranger still, I found that I enjoy cooking. There’s something cathartic about chopping vegetables, even if every time I slice into an onion tears pour down my cheeks leaving behind thick black streaks of mascara that I often forget about until someone asks me why I’ve been crying.

What does it say about me and my bond to my family that I find myself trying to recreate a soup that I so despised as a child? I could crack open a can or two of Campbell’s Chicken and Stars, toss it in a pot for a few minutes and call it a day. But yet, I don’t. Most of the meals I make are attempts at recreating what my mother cooked for me as a child. When I mentioned this to her she said, “I cooked like my mother because it was all I knew.”

Part of it is comfort. When I tasted a brown gravy I made for the first time, I couldn’t believe how much it tasted exactly like my mother’s. (I’m still working on the “no lump” part – I haven’t mastered that yet.) With one taste of my lumpy gravy, I felt calm. I felt warm. Safe. And sad. My parents live 2,000 miles away from me and I miss them. Food, no matter how weak a facsimile I create, keeps them close to me.

Hopefully the soup will help my boyfriend feel better (and help me, my throat is starting to hurt!) Hopefully it will provide him with some comfort when he’s sick and hundreds of miles away from his own parents. When we’re sick, no matter how old we are, all we want are the things our mothers provided us when we were ill as children.

P.S. – you may see elbow noodles in that last picture. I usually favor egg noodles or acini di pepe noodles as that’s what my mother uses. But I didn’t realize I didn’t have either of those until I already had the chicken in the pot. I went with what I had!


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