Chicken soup might just be the most quintessential Jewish food, considered by many to be a necessity from holidays and special occasions to sick beds, where it earned its nickname as “Jewish penicillin.” Countless generations have elevated this simple dish to mythic status with innumerable variations according to individual cooks, families and cultures, with turmeric or cloves of fresh garlic just two popular flavor additions. 

Dear Shaina,

I know! Dad keeps complaining about how much weight he’s gained. At least he started working out at the JCC again and even goes to yoga with me weekly. And I just keep cooking…and eating.  There are times when I am almost grateful that I have diabetes so that I can more easily say “no” to sweets.

It’s funny how despite the miles and different cooking styles that separate us, we manage to walk similar cooking paths. I have also been on a massive soup kick. Not so much to ward off the cold (it’s been seventy degrees here all week), but to inspire it.  Last night it went down to 29 degrees, right here in Alabama! So maybe my soup frenzy worked.

I made some basic Lentil Soup and added hot curry, garam masala and cilantro…and it is now a new regular. I also made a huge pot of Black Bean Soup with chile powder, cumin… and cilantro, of course. (Dad loves cilantro.)  I am sure you are wondering how two people can eat so much soup. It’s soup and salad every night. Your father is a very tolerant man…and likes my cooking.

With all the flu going around, I felt compelled to add Chicken Soup to this most recent soup marathon. Not so much to soothe the suffering, but more to ward off the flu…and so far it’s working.  I don’t really get what you have against rich, veggie-infused, healthy (yes, healthy) soup. Chicken, carrots, onions and celery with matzah balls is a complete nutritious meal. I even skim the fat off.  Besides, my golden-colored chicken soup bears a striking resemblance to your carrot-colored skin.

As I emptied the Black Bean Soup from Bubbe’s big soup pot and prepared to make Chicken Soup, I remember a man coming to my childhood home and demonstrating these shiny, stainless steel pots that featured waterless cooking and lids that sealed themselves to the pot. I don’t know what compelled my parents to buy these beautiful pots (they never bought anything extravagant), but my mother, your Bubbe, said to me, a child of nine or ten, “These will be yours someday.” She taught me how to make Chicken Soup…and she is looking over my shoulder every time I make a pot, smiling and proud…of her pots and my soup.

She kept those pots immaculately clean and when I got them, they looked the same as the day they got them. Although I don’t exactly have the same passion for cleanliness that Bubbe did, I do clean those pots religiously. They still look brand new, and I plan to keep them that way because…“Shaina, these will be yours someday.”