One of my favorite childhood foods and, I’m happy to report, one of my son’s as well, is chicken soup. There is no more comforting food when you’re feeling under the weather, stressed out, cold… or just any old time really, than chicken soup.
In Yiddish culture, chicken soup is revered as a cure for a variety of ills, and this folk remedy can be traced back to Maimonides, a 12th century philosopher, Torah scholar and physician, who said that chicken broth puts the humors back in balance and “neutralizes the body constitution.” The tradition of eating chicken soup with either noodles or matzoh balls continues to this day in Jewish culture. It has also rubbed off into mainstream culture, giving rise for example to the shmaltzy (pun intended) Chicken Soup series.
For sure, it was a favorite childhood food of mine. While I grew up in a part of Pittsburgh that boasted no Jewish delis, whenever my parents would take us on a trip to New York or another city with a sizeable Jewish population, we would go straight for the deli and order a matzoh ball soup. We ate it as though we had just returned to civilization after a lenthy stay abroad. It was a bowl of home.
Chicken broth, matzoh balls, noodles. and soft vegetables of course also make a wonderful food for babies and children. One of the first savory foods that my son would accept was chicken broth and he loved feeding himself tender pieces of matzoh ball.
Here is my mother’s recipe for Chicken soup:
Mom’s Chicken Soup for the Grandkids
2 pieces of organic chicken breast or thigh, bone-in
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3-4 cups of water or vegetable broth
1/2 cup pastina
Put all of the ingredients except the pastina into a pot. Boil for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken and pick the meat off the bones, putting it back into the pot with some salt and pepper. Add the pastina and simmer for another 10 minutes.
*Instead or in addition to pastina, if desired, purchase a box of “matzoh ball mix,” prepare as directed, and add to pot. Be sure to simmer the length of time indicated on the box. I would give you the recipe for matzoh balls, but really nobody (at least not in my family) actually makes them from scratch and the boxed mixes are very tasty when added to homemade soup.
I don’t have the facts on whether chicken soup is actually as healing as Maimonides thought, but, as Grandma says, a little chicken soup never hurt anyone! Enjoy.