Chicken soup as ther­apy

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - Editorial - Rus­sell Wanger­sky

When things go wrong — re­ally wrong — I rec­om­mend soup.

Two-day soup. Chicken. Not the eat­ing, nec­es­sar­ily — the mak­ing.

Keep in mind this is not a recipe. This is a cop­ing mech­a­nism.

My mother-in-law, a lovely woman, died Fri­day. If she were in my shoes, she would have made a spaghetti sauce, her mouth pursed in a way that was uniquely hers — for me, it’s soup.

First, roast a chicken. Rub the out­side of the chicken with spices and stand it up off the bot­tom of the roast­ing pan on a base of peeled car­rots. Let chicken and pan stand in the fridge for at least an hour, then roast at 350 de­grees Fahren­heit, un­til it reaches 165 de­grees on a meat ther­mome­ter.

Put the chicken, whole, in a large pot, and add enough wa­ter to com­pletely cover it.

These are the steps your hands will learn to do al­most on their own, with just enough thought go­ing on to dis­tance and dis­tract you from all the other things.

Three cloves of lo­cal gar­lic, left nested in­side their pa­pery white outer skins. A yel­low onion, skinned and quar­tered. The drip­pings from the roast­ing pan. The cooked car­rots. Some wine; some Worces­ter­shire sauce. Bay leaves — many. Thyme — a small bunch. More black pep­per­corns than you would think nec­es­sary. Sim­ple things: keep mov­ing. Don’t think. Don’t think.

Bring to a boil. Sim­mer on low heat for two hours.

Let cool, and re­frig­er­ate.

The next morn­ing, scrape the chicken fat from the sur­face, but don’t be too thor­ough. Fats carry flavour, so you want to leave enough to keep the broth rich. Re­heat.

Look down into the pot as the heat brings the liq­uid back to life.

The flat pearls of chicken fat on the sur­face swirling, co­a­lesc­ing, break­ing apart again, bur­nished gold. The stock so full of flavour and pro­tein that it gelled as it cooled, and now, as it warms again, it liq­ue­fies from the edges of the pot in­wards to the mid­dle, small pieces of cooked chicken, lit­tle more than specks, obey­ing their own laws of physics as they course through the stock.

Steam will rise gen­tly and play across your face, al­most solid.

The smell of the stock will fill the kitchen. It will try to fill ev­ery cor­ner of the house. It will try to fix any­thing it comes across that’s bro­ken.

Taste the broth. Taste it again: you’re al­lowed to. The uni­verse of soup is fully in your con­trol; lit­tle else is con­trol­lable, and life smacks you hard each time you for­get that.

Sim­mer for two hours. Some­times, a thin skein of pro­teins will form on parts of the sur­face as the stock bur­bles. This is good.

Al­low the soup to cool again. Strain out the broth. Set the liq­uid aside. Pick out the meat, re­mov­ing the chicken bones, the skin. Pay at­ten­tion here: stay alert. As in many things, there are many small bones and sharp sur­faces to steer clear of.

Take those care­worn pan-bot­tom car­rots with some stock and blend them into paste. Blend the now-trans­par­ent curls of quar­tered onion, too. Put the paste back into the broth along with the chicken meat. The clear broth may turn cloudy, but that’s fine.

Cut new peeled car­rots into rings. Cut and add green horse­shoe-slices of cel­ery stalks. Test to see if it needs salt. A ta­ble­spoon of ap­ple cider vine­gar; I don’t know why. Cook again.

Some peo­ple would pre­fer to add po­ta­toes. I like to wait un­til just be­fore din­ner, and add an over­loaded half-cup of star-shaped pasta noo­dles.

I like my uni­verse full of stars, each one a pos­si­bil­ity.

Fill a bowl. Eat. Share.

Cry.

If you’re still in trou­ble, I would rec­om­mend mak­ing bis­cuits, too.

Flour, but­ter, salt, bak­ing pow­der, milk — that’s all I have for you right now.

You’re on your own.

Rus­sell Wanger­sky can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­[email protected]­gram.com — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

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