chicken soup for the (flu-ridden) soul

“I want soup,” I said to my mother, thrusting Small Victories in front of her, open to the page featuring Aunt Renee’s Chicken Soup. In January, I was feeling absolutely dreadful with what I would later learn was the flu. It was about 2 pm–not a perfect time to begin making homemade chicken stock. My mom implored me to find a different recipe that I wanted to eat, one that didn’t take upwards of 5 hours, but I didn’t want anything else. Throwing caution and a fully-fleshed out chicken stock to the wind, I sent my dad to the store with a grocery list and patiently waited.

My mom said she would make the soup for me, but I ended up doing most of it myself–she was doing other work, I was lurking in the kitchen sticking my nose in the stockpot, impatiently stirring, and waiting for the scents of onion, dill, and chicken to bloom.

Homemade chicken soup requires patience and time, neither of which I had an abundance of that day. While the stock simmered and developed on the stovetop, I made biscuits for the first time, using a quick recipe from Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook. Biscuits are one of those foods that seem so…ancestral. The paternal, Jewish Egyptian side of my family was likely not making any, but my mother’s old Texan side surely made their fair share. I wanted to use schmaltz in place of lard (thus bringing my two lineages to a beautiful collision) but our only container was frozen solid so I used shortening. I would love to thaw that schmaltz and try it out with these biscuits, though. They ended up pretty good, but what isn’t when slathered in apple butter?

We ended up taking off the soup an hour before the suggested time because my father was impatient and hungry and old and it was 7:30 pm. It was a sublime soup. I don’t know what it is about chicken soup that does what it does to you. I was certainly not healed (you need Tamiflu for that) but man, it makes you feel like you’re being hugged.

Did I mention I made all this WHILE HAVING THE FLU? One of the more impressive moments of my culinary life. I have loved Small Victories so much lately, and Julia Turshen’s beautifully simple, rustic, delicious approach to cooking. You must pick it up if you haven’t already.

-Sophie