In the past two days, my son found out that he needed to have 6 teeth extracted as part of an ongoing orthodontia project, and a friend who I dearly love learned that his employment contract would not be renewed for next year. In both cases, I feel tremendous empathy, a desire to smite the wrongdoers (orthodontists and bosses) and a need to FIX these people that I love, and restore them to their pre-trauma glory. Since I can’t really right either situation, and there are limits to the helpfulness of saying “I’m sorry; it will be okay” 500 times a day, I made another plan. I’m making soup. Even if neither of my traumatized loved ones ever eats a bite (although I hope that they will) I am putting such support, encouragement and positive energy into this soup that its mere presence in the universe will begin the healing process.
It happens (I believe due to an act of God) that last night’s dinner was a roasted chicken, rice, and carrots. At the moment, I am making stock from the chicken carcass, using Michael Ruhlman’s method from The Elements of Cooking, which involves cooking the carcass and water over very low heat (not even a simmer) for about 3 hours, skimming frequently and adding aromatics (bay leaf, peppercorn, celery, carrots and onion) only in the last hour. I will then strain it, adjust seasonings, and be ready for the next step.
To this clear, flavorful broth I will add small bits of only the tenderest bits of white meat chicken, with any hint of gristle, vein or skin removed. (If you are curing someone of heartache and fear, you make sure they get the best bites imaginable, every single time). I will also add maybe two cups of cooked rice, and the leftover cooked carrots cut into coins. I’ll taste the soup again, heat it gently to warm all the ingredients (too high would toughen the chicken and turn the rice and carrots to mush) and ladle out full bowls for all available fallen warriors. I can’t fix everything, but I can’t think of a better way to express what’s in my full and sympathetic heart than to pour it into a pot of homemade soup.
P.S. If, like me, you believe in the transference of emotions through cooking (and you are open to a little magical realism) you may want to read Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.