Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Chicken Soup for my Soul

My son is crying this morning as he boards the school bus. We've had a rough start today and he doesn't want to go to school. I assure him everything will be fine and then burst into tears myself as the bus pulls away.

I kiss my husband goodbye as he leaves for a ten-day business trip and feel the loneliness set in as soon as he backs out of the driveway.

The sky looks gray and gives me an unsettled feeling. A dear friend's little boy just broke his leg. And another sweet friend is having a double mastectomy tomorrow. I want to help without too much hovering.

Yet, there are happy things to look forward to as well. My cute younger sister flies in tonight for a week of fall festivities. The air is turning crisp and the leaves are starting to fall. A package with Halloween costumes arrives in the mail.

What can I do to nourish my children and comfort myself? Help my friends in their trials? Welcome a favorite guest? Celebrate the beginning of a wonderful new season?

I know just the thing...a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup. The soup that has nourished and comforted and welcomed and celebrated for at least four generations in our family.


Tradition has it that my great-grandmother, Adelilah, worked all day plucking poultry during the Depression so that she could bring home a chicken for her own family at the end of the day. I picture her stirring it on the stove as her little ones slide on the hardwood floors in their hollow living room. Empty, because the bank had just come to take away the family's pretty new furniture.

In those days, I'm sure Great-grandma wasn't too worried about calories or carbs. Probably just wanted to stretch the soup as far as it would go. I've heard she was a wonderful baker and picture her tenderly baking loaves of fresh bread to go with the hot soup.

I wonder if Great-grandma served chicken noodle soup to her oldest son when he got sick. Did her tears salt the broth after his funeral? Or when her younger two sons went off to war? I'll bet the soldier boys missed her cooking and felt that all was well when they could finally come home and eat a bowl of chicken soup at the family table.

Great-grandma passed the recipe on to her new daughter-in-law, my Grama June. I picture Grama stirring the pot in her yellow kitchen while the kids watched "I Love Lucy" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show" after school.

I'm sure Grama served the soup in exquisite blue and white china bowls, with a crisp side salad and some kind of fancy seeded roll. Martha Stewart could've learned a thing or two from Grama June.

Did Grama roll her eyes across the table as her oldest daughter and son tormented the littlest sister about the imaginary orange spot on the back of her head? I'm sure being a dutiful daughter-in-law she followed the recipe perfectly. But, knowing Grampa, he probably teased her about "not quite measuring up" to his mother's version and would have shaken in a whole lot of extra salt.

June's tormenting oldest daughter grew up to be my mom, Marty. I remember Mom making chicken noodle soup for company, for birthday celebrations and to take to sick friends. Watching her, I learned to measure the cream in half an eggshell and roll the noodles with a pizza cutter.

The smell of Mom's chicken soup warmed up any house and made it a home. When our family had moved to another country far away and were feeling homesick and lonely, Mom lit the gas range in that funny, damp kitchen and stirred up her magic potion. Looking back, I think she must have been as comforted making the soup as we all were eating it.

I tried my hand at soup making as a new bride. Surprisingly, it was not as easy as Mom always made it look! I learned that one cannot make a rich, delicious chicken stock by simply boiling boneless, skinless breasts. And I learned not to get my feelings hurt when my new husband sacreligiously crushed a whole sleeve of saltines in the bowl and proceeded to eat the whole thing with a (gasp) fork!

After a few years' trial and error, I have made my own (healthier) adjustments to the family recipe. I use skim milk instead of cream and add a whole bunch of chopped carrots and celery so my kids get an extra serving of vegetables. Sometimes, in a pinch, I use canned chicken broth and chop up those skinless, boneless breasts. But I always make the noodles from scratch and I always serve myself a big mugful before dinnertime. Just to make sure it tastes ok.

The phone rings. It's Jake's teacher. She got my message about our rough morning and is just calling to say that he's doing fine and the day is going very well. Wow! Such a great teacher. How can I thank her for all that she does? Hmmm...maybe a Gladware bowl of homemade chicken soup!

20 comments:

Annie said...

It definitely sounds like a chicken soup day...after you finish, go ahead and eat chocolate and take a long bath, too. By the way, I'd love to get the recipe for this one.

Have fun with your sista!

Bridget said...

Wow, what great memories. Food has a way of doing that. My chicken noodle soup is about as simple as you get. I have only attempted making noodles once and I failed miserably. Please post that recipe. I second Annie with the chocolate and bath. And if you lived closer, say 2,995 miles closer, I'd bring you a warm loaf of bread. The best comfort ever.

Rochelleht said...

Oh, I just loved that. I've had so many mornings like that! I'm feelin' ya!

I totally have a family chicken soup, too. I hand make the noodles and it took me years to perfect it just like my mom and grandma did. We serve it over mashed potatoes. Ask Cheryl. Her family loves it (I don't know if you know this, but we cooked together for 3 years before she moved last year).

Have fun with your sis! This sister-less girl is a little bit jealous.

jake n isabel's mom said...

Recipe please!! And the in a pinch one would be good too since I a very kitchen challenged - but I loves me some chicken soup!!

Stie: My Favorite Things said...

You know, it's funny - but that same recipe is a comfort in our house, passed down to me by your mom. It truly is the best and it's the one thing that my kids practically lick the bowl clean when they eat. Just the smell in the house makes them all so happy, especially Josh. I loved how you tied it all together in this post. You are such a great writer. I'm so glad I know you! Have fun with Mart...so jealous!

Celia Fae said...

I loved looking at the old photos and seeing resemblances. Excellent scanning? I could almost smell the soup cooking. I'm deprived so its Campbell's for me.

mama jo said...

that was such a beautiful tribute...we had grandma's soup every year for dad's (grandpa to you) birthday...it was his favorite...and everyone else's it seems...my kids have always loved it when i make it...always have to make a double batch of noodles...and since i'm the tormented sister with the orange head...i deserve an extra bowl...

gab said...

Yes, I will post the recipe...

Rochelle, I would like to get yours too. I think Brad would like mine better served over mashed potatoes anyway. He only likes foods he can eat with a fork.
I remember Cheryl telling me about the food swap. Fun! Some of my best recipes are from her...

Celia, still no scanner. I just copied these from my mom's and aunt's blogs.

Nimmy said...

Funny, I'm just simmering a chicken carcass for chicken noodle soup tomorrow! The aroma of this soup just makes a fall day so cozy. Definitely double up on the fat, homemade noodles, they are the best.

Marty said...

This is priceless. What a great way to tell a story and feed our memories. I can smell the kitchen and feel the warmth.

Polly said...

I loved the pictures and memories. I make chicken noodle soup for Chirstmas Eve dinner and other special occasions. Dad used to say it's not hot enough!!! It was boiling with bubbles when I put the bowl in front of him. My neighbors enjoy the soup as a comfort food as well...Grama Adelila didn't realize what a wonderful tradition she was passing on..she was just trying to feed her family.

Polly said...

Sorry I have one more addition- a few years ago I switched to boneless chicken breasts and lots of cans of chicken broth...no one can tell any difference, it's the homemade noodles that make it special.

Rochelleht said...

What are the recipes you like best from Cheryl? I love her Hurry Curry and she has a great chicken salad with rice a roni. I love it.

My recipe is so simple yet so hard. It's one of those things that doesn't even have that many ingredients, it's just a do it by feel kind of thing. It seriously took me many many years to get down. My noodles are flour, egg and canned milk. What do you make yours with? My soup is just basically a good broth with chicken in it. Since I am from Idaho, I can't play modest with my mashed potatoes. They really are the best. It's true. ;-)

Nicole said...

It's a cold and rainy day here in New England and reading this post warmed me right up! Can't wait 'til you post the recipe... looking forward to making it for my family. :)

Jessica said...

What a nice nice post. That's the kind of family history post that makes you not feel so guilty when you spend too many hours in blogland!

And did I miss the recipe?

Megan said...

Great post. You definately have a gift for writing. The soup sounds great. Have fun with your sister. What an awesome teacher to call you!

Jan said...

You don't know me but somehow (I'm not even sure) I happened upon your blog and loved this post. I'm a fairly new grandma and loved reading about your day and your memories of family. Thank you for making my day!

lainakay said...

Wow, you really are a wonderful writer! Making me tear up AGAIN!

Looking forward to that recipe! The aroma of homemade soup, so comforting... and homemade noodles, heaven!

Have fun with your baby sister. I'm missing mine. Nothing better than a little sister who adores your children and is fun to hang out with. Mine's in South Africa until May (sniffle).

marta said...

yay for the family chicken noodle soup! gabi served it to me when i arrived at midnight.. i indulged. who can resist a big simmering bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup!? it was made to perfection.. along with gabi's delicious homemade wheat bread and brownie on the side.

our mom always gave us dessert.. which is why we all have sweet teeth! thanks to the women in my life who exemplify wholesome wonderful goodness! and yes, the pizza cutter is the best way to slice the noodles. i love pouring the cream (or milk, in my house..) into half the egg shell, just as i picture grama june doing..

Dancin Queen said...

Ah, what a great post. Mornings like that are rough--it's hard to start out rocky, pick yourself up, and make the best of the day ahead. Good for you!

Now I'm craving chicken noodle soup. Maybe I'll fly over too. Do you think your sister would mind?

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