Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Love and Chicken Soup

Photo by Rachel Dedrickson
For my birthday last week, I took half the day off from work and spent some long overdue and much needed time with my family.

First on the agenda, Mom and I made an impromptu date with Aunt Julie for lunch.  Aunt Julie lives approximately one mile away from my house, so it just made perfect sense for her to join the birthday festivities.

To my surprise, we showed up to Aunt Julie’s house and she had decorated the kitchen with birthday d├ęcor and was comfortably working away, between the skin and the stove, whipping up lunch from scratch.  Note that it seems she is always whipping something up from scratch like it’s no trouble at all - apple pie, squash soup, fresh rolls, and so forth.

Lunch was delicious!  But that’s not what I am here to post about today.  Sorry! I’m here to talk about the amazing gift my Aunt set on the table after we finished our homemade lunch. Her present caught me by surprise, and I will admit, completely knocked my socks off.

Here’s how it happened:

She put a huge, silver soup pot tied up with orange ribbon in front of me on the table at the end of our meal.  Initially, I thought, is she giving me a soup pot for my birthday? Awesome! Yes, don’t judge, I get excited about kitchen gadgets and tools.

“No,” she laughed. “I’m not giving you the pot.”

Ok, so I was confused. What did she make for me then?

Then I opened the pot and realized the treasure sitting in front of me: carrots, celery, onions, and two whole chickens. It was the ingredients to make a huge batch of chicken soup.

I have been asking Aunt Julie how to make chicken soup (which also stems into matzo ball soup) for a while now. We made a deal to have some cooking dates this year, so I can learn the cooking and family food ropes, and this pot of food pearls kicked-off Lesson 1.

Bright and early on Saturday morning, at 8 a.m. to be exact, Aunt Julie and I started Lesson 1: Project Chicken Soup. You see the real-deal chicken soup is in all-day endeavor.

I learned so much, and I am so thrilled with how the soup turned out.  I learned about cleaning the chicken and about what pieces of a chicken to salvage before and after the soup process is complete (veggies and stewed chicken – so delicious!). I learned about schmaltz, which is used in a zillion Jewish recipes. Don’t get grossed out when I tell you that schmaltz is rendered chicken fat used for cooking other dishes. What else? I learned that good soup doesn’t need any salt, and I most importantly  learned to appreciate the process. OK! I also discovered how badly I want to put an extra freezer in the garage, so I can continue to make soup and stock up!

At the end of the day, I filled up multiple gefilte fish glass containers and a couple of huge plastic tubs. How I fit it all in my freezer, I have absolutely no idea. All I know is, I’m excited to cook with homemade chicken broth and have something comforting to pull out of the freezer when I’m under the weather or feeling gloomy.

It’s funny because I, the one searching for written food and family secrets, didn’t write down the recipe for chicken soup.  Truthfully, there really is no recipe. I understand now, why seasoned cooks say they go into the kitchen and just pull dishes together. I'm not there yet, but I intend to get there someday.

“A soup like this is not the work of one man. It is the result of a constantly refined tradition. There are nearly a thousand years of history..." 
Willa Cather, 1927
Photo by Rachel Dedrickson
Photo by Rachel Dedrickson

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