Food as Acts of Grace

Layout 1One of the most miserable days in my life was when I was a new mom and I came down with the flu – the REAL flu, not just a cold, or sniffles, or a bug. This was the coming-out-both-ends-prayin’-for-Jesus-to-take-me-now kind of flu.

I was alone and trying to care for a newborn. My husband was at work and I lived in a rural part of Connecticut. My saving grace was my mother-in-law Joyce, who lived next door.

Although she had recently injured her shoulder and didn’t feel confident to take care of the baby for any length of time, she brought me chicken soup. Joyce sat with the baby while I ate the soup.

Just having those few minutes to nourish myself made all the difference; her calming presence made all the difference. When I got calm, the baby got calm. I was actually able to take a shower and sleep for a few hours. I was so much better the next day. Later that week Joyce taught me how to make the soup. No recipe card or anything written down. Just an oral tradition passed to the next generation.

Now, I know that this sounds so cliché. I get it. But this is special soup. I married into a delightful Jewish family and this recipe is truly a cure-all that has been passed down for generations – authentic Jewish chicken soup. And, the secret ingredient is love – and a lot of garlic.

When I am at a loss for what to do for someone – a family member, a neighbor, a coworker, whomever – I make them this soup. When I can’t solve a problem, take away someone’s pain, or if I know that someone in my circle is sick– I make them this soup.

Joyce’s soup takes about two hours to make. During that process the INTENTION OF NOURISHMENT AND HEALING infuses the ingredients with energy that gets passed into every subsequent bowl of soup forever and ever Amen.

Here’s the recipe.

Use organic ingredients whenever possible.
One whole chicken – organic, grain fed, free range, antibiotic-free, locally grown, compassionately processed. Or, just get a kosher one. Same thing.

Chicken stock. The magic here is to use homemade stock from the last batch of chicken soup.

Put the chicken in a large pot and cover with stock. Add a couple of handfuls of chopped carrots, chopped celery with the leaves, 2 or 3 chopped parsnips, 1 large chopped turnip, a bunch of chopped flat parsley, a bunch of chopped baby dill, 2 large chopped white onions, and as much garlic as you can stand to chop. (I usually get through about 2 full bulbs). According to Joyce, you can never have too much garlic.

Bring to just under a boil and turn to low. Let simmer for about an hour or so. Remove the chicken and let cool. Once cool enough to handle, remove the meat, add to the soup, and save the carcass, fat and skin for the next batch of stock.

Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper and a bit more parsley and dill. You can either puree some or all of the vegetables and then add cooked noodles or rice.

Magical Stock
Chicken carcass from previous batch of soup. Add a tablespoon of peppercorns, kosher salt, a couple of heads of garlic cut in half, onion, carrots, rosemary, parsley, and anything else in the fridge that might work. Cover with water and simmer for several hours. Let cool, strain and freeze for the next batch.

There you have it: Joyce’s Sacred Chicken Soup.

Joyce Sober Simon passed away on April 5th, 2010. A “real-deal” Jewish mother who inspired and cared for me more than words can say. Y’hei sh’lama raba min sh’maya. May there be abundant peace from heaven. Amen.



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