israeli chicken soup: the selfless soup

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Good things come in small packages, so goes the cliché, and this week the small packages included two kids with lots and lots of dirty tissues. I should have picked up on the red flags hitting me in the face when my daughter began her typical deconstruction of events.

First, there was the academic question:

“Mom, are you sure we can’t feel the earth’s rotation on its axis?” (i.e., I’m dizzy as hell.)

Then, the philosophical question:

“If I am sweating like crazy, but I am not exercising, am I still sweating?”

(i.e., I am burning up a wicked fever; please oh please shove a thermometer in my mouth, mother.)

And finally, the biggest signal of them all, the culinary question:

“Do I have to eat something?”

(i.e., if you know anything about me, it’s that I always, always, ALWAYS eat, so something is seriously wrong.)

My son, who is much more flamboyant in his angst with illness lay curled in a ball of misery, eyes puffed, full lips unusually fuller, eyelashes fighting to stay open occasionally throwing a groan out for whomever would care to capture it.

I chose to look away from all this, I confess. Even with the culinary question at hand and the fever-induced drama, there were too many things jotted into the week’s calendar to invite the flu over to play. Of course, I’ve been a mother long enough to know that this is precisely the time the flu decides to hit and hit hard. Before I could say the word “overscheduled” I found myself quarantined in my house with two infirm children, force-feeding glasses of water chased by jiggers of Tylenol and Advil watching the week and all its appointments slip by in the blink of an eye.

By the end of that first day the list of complaints was long and steady: sore throat, stuffy nose, achy bones and dizziness reigned and my patience was wearing thin. I admit to being a tad crass when it comes to nurturing sick ones, even if they are my sick ones. Nose-blowing and medicine dispensing have never been my forte especially under the guise of little sleep. But there was a glimmer of hope when the request arose for my “Israeli medicine,” which was my six-year old’s cry for Jewish penicillin, aka, chicken soup. Given the opportunity to feed them back to health all frustrations washed away and I transformed into a busy culinary caregiver with a keen sense of purpose quickly peeling carrots, rinsing leeks and chopping up potatoes.

The pot filled with goodness came to a slow simmer and before I knew it the air was infused with the simple marvels of chicken, carrots and potatoes. My children know me well and glowed through their haze of illness as I prepared them their soup. They are happier because I am happier, and as I slipped the parsley into the pot I caught a glimpse of them watching me and wondered for a moment if they’ve asked for this soup for them or for me?

I looked at them and smiled through the steam and they managed a grin back.

“Israeli medicine coming up”, I happily announced, suddenly feeling whole, purposeful, and strangely appreciative. Maybe it was the Tylenol or the hot bowl of soup they’d soon have, or the simple act of making me feel better for them to feel better. At any rate, I knew these packages where worthy keepers.

Israeli Chicken Soup

  • 1 whole chicken, 3 – 4 pounds
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced into 2 inch pieces
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into eighths
  • 1 leek, thoroughly rinsed* and chopped fine (green included)
  • ½ cup parsley
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 ½ tablespoon kosher salt
  • Shkedim** for serving

*Leeks hold a lot of hidden dirt! To clean properly, slice lengthwise and fan open under running water. Do this several time as there is dirt hidden in each layer!

Place chicken, onion and cold water in pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Skim off foam that rises to the top.

Simmer for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables.

Add to the broth and increase heat to high. Boil vigorously for thirty minutes.

Add parsley.

Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning.

Serves 8

To serve: Carefully remove chicken from soup and separate meat from skin and bones. Separate potatoes and carrots and reserve. Discard remaining vegetables.

Strain soup.

Place broth in bowl and add several pieces of carrots, potato, and some chicken meat.

**To make this a true Israeli soup, serve it with shkedim, tiny soup crackers which are an Israeli fixture for chicken soup. Shkedim can be found in most Mediterranean food shops.

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israeli chicken soup: the selfless soup

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