Before I even begin to blog I must make a few things perfectly clear. When it comes to chicken soup there are probably as many recipes as there are practitioners, but the basics remain the same......you puts your chicken in a pot along with celery, onion, carrots and water, toss in some salt and pepper and a sprig of parsley and simmer the hell out of it.........result, ambrosia, Jewish Penicillin, comfort food supreme. If you needed just chicken broth you would strain the veggies out at the end, but otherwise after an hour or two of simmering you had a gorgeous pot of the real stuff. It should be easy, right? So how come so many things can go wrong?
For instance, when I was a very little girl I always had my eye out for some goodie I could sneak from the magic spells my Mamma and Grandma were performing around the kitchen. Often I would find a spoon, carelessly left unmonitored, which had just finished stirring a cake batter or bowl of frosting. Oh, the delicious joy of it, moreso I think because it was a stolen pleasure. However, once in a while my gluttony would outpace my caution or critical judgment.......like the time I came upon the monster Stirring Spoon sitting on the drainboard with what appeared to be some unidentified but frothy looking stuff that I took to be a kind of whipped cocoa icing. It was not till I had devoured most of it that I realized I had made a huge mistake. "Ugh", I said with trepidation gripping my heart, "what was this stuff in the spoon?" My Mother sighed the sigh of all mothers approaching the end of their tether. "I've told you to ask first, haven't I?", she responded........."your Grandma just finished skimming the fat and scum from the chicken soup and it serves you right." Not a drop of sympathy there......Well.....it didn't kill me but it taught me that chicken soup was not such totally wondrous stuff through its entire process.........in its early stages it was a thing to be avoided like the plague.
Tha reminds me of another time my haste caused me to escape death from poisoning by the skin of my teeth. It doesn't deal with chicken soup but I'll tell it anyway. You may not believe this, but there was a time on this earth that water was something that came out of faucets and hoses but never appeared in a bottle that one carried around.. Consequently, I would often come home from school totally parched and rush to the kitchen sink for a drink, sure that I would die of dehydration before I could guzzle down enough water to slake my thirst. One day my condition was the worst it had ever been and as I staggered with swollen tongue to the sink I noted that the water glass that always sat there was already about a quarter full. To save time I grabbed it, added a bit more water from the faucet, slogged down the contents and once more was seized with the wave of trepidation that follows one's ingesting of a substance that was not actually what one was expecting. My mother and I both started talked at the same moment. "Mamma, what was in this glass on the sink?", I gasped. "Lois, be careful not to use that glass on the sink.....I was saving some Clorox to bleach the drainboard tiles.", my mother warned. Omigod,omigod....I drank the Clorox.....will I die??? Omigod. After both of us ran around the kitchen for a while like the proverbial chickens with their heads cut off my Mother had a brilliant idea. We would call Mr. Simkins. my best friend's father who happened to be a pharmacist, to find out if there was an antidote to ward off certain death. I described the situation to him as best I could, considering I had only a few more minutes to live and he took in every word, interjected a few grunts and paused before answering. (In fact, afterward I was convinced that the strange choking noises I heard over the line was not phone interference but actually Mr. Simkins trying not to laugh uproariously.) "Do you have any pain or burning sensation in your mouth, throat or stomach?, he inquired. When I told him that I did not he sighed and said, "Well, Lois, I guess if you could drink it you can probably digest it." And so I did, but I burped Clorox for about 6 hours afterward and I can tell you I never want to drink Clorox again. But, I digress.......back to chicken soup........
When I was young I vividly remember my cousin, Ruth, sitting in our kitchen wringing her hands over a recent culinary disaster. Now at this moment in time she was no longer a young woman and probably had made at least a half a gazillion pots of chicken soup for her family so it wasn't that she didn't know how. Apparently she simply lost focus for a few moments, daydreaming about running away to Paris with Clark Gable or Rudolph Valentino as women were known to fantasy in those days. With tears in her eyes she told us, "I made a double batch because I wanted a lot of chicken broth for a recipe I wanted to try. I carried the pot over to the sink and got out my big strainer, poured the whole potful in and then realized I had forgotten to put a container under the strainer. I didn't know what I had done till I saw the last drop disappearing down the drain. Omigod, omigod, do you think I am going crazy??" It took a good part of the day to convince her that she wasn't going crazy, but it is possible that Alzheimers was beginning to set in (though we had never heard of Alzheimers in those days......the men in the white coats with the strait jackets was what everyone feared.)
Anyway, the other day I went through all the steps to create a huge caldron of chicken soup and when it was simmering properly I came into my study to check my email and perhaps browse through some blogs.......I even brought my cooking timer with me because I have been known to forget pots simmering on the stove till the contents were unrecognizable and certainly inedible. It's a good thing I did because I got lost in cyberspace but when the bell went off I rushed in and checked out the soup......perfect, so I turned it off and scampered back to my browsing.
Some time later I was overcome with the scent of chicken soup gone wrong and I rushed into the kitchen to see what could possibly be happening.........lifting the lid I peered into a pot that contained not a trace of chicken soup, just an unidentifiable sludge, not quite burned, but certainly reduced to hell and gone.....It seems that what I actually did was turn the burner up to Hi rather than to Off.....sob. I pray the possums may not notice the slight tinge of scorch.......they are SO forgiving.
The New Yorker covers: August 18, 1975
12 hours ago