The Slow-Cooked Sentence

You get what you get

Rachael Conlin Levy

It was an extravagance, turning a whole chicken into stock, but I wanted a rich, fragrant, meaty broth with shimmering droplets of fat, a soup that cured. It bubbled on the stove all day long.

I don’t like caring for sick kids. I resent their neediness, the tether they become, the disruption they cause, but I am their mother and this is what mothers do: They measure cough syrup, brew cups of herbal tea, take temperatures, rub backs, then wake in the middle of the night to do it all again. Yesterday, I did this but not well, for in between the good-mother stuff, I lost my temper, cursed my children, rudely hung up on my husband and ate handfuls of chocolate chips straight out of the bag. I feel guilty that I’m at my worst when my kids need me most, but there it is.

I needed this chicken broth to work magic and restore not only health but also good will, which was asking a lot from a bowl of soup, but I can wish, can’t I?
“It’s not simply its warmth, aroma or digestibility that makes you feel better. Chicken soup really is good for you, but only if it has those pools of golden fat floating on its top,” Jennifer McLagan writes in the cookbook “Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient.” “All poultry fats contain the monosaturated fatty acid palmitoleic acid, which is believed to boost our immune systems. Chicken fat has more palmitoleic acid than other types of poultry fat.”

I seasoned the broth, added thin coins of carrots, dill and plump matzo balls. But some days can’t be saved. Some days are bitter, a struggle to live through, a slog. My daughter continued to whimper that her chest hurt when she coughed and my sons didn’t return my smile when they returned from school. Although beautiful flecks of fat glittered on its surface, this soup didn’t cure what ailed the day, although it made it taste a little better.

Chicken stock

One whole chicken
Enough water to just cover it
A couple bay leaves
A handful of whole peppercorns
One onion, quartered
Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and skim the foam off the surface. A whole chicken simmered a long time will yield the richest and most flavorful stock, but you also can use the bones from a couple roasted chickens. About one hour into the process, I pull the chicken out and cut off the breasts, saving them for another meal. Typically, I simmer the chicken until it falls to pieces or about four hours, then strain through a colander.

6 responses to “You get what you get”

  1. Maybe your soup did make a difference but just requires a short waiting period. I bet the house smelled great. I don't even like taking care of myself when I'm sick. I don't think it's fun for anyone.

  2. Rachael Levy says:

    You're right, Denise, time made all the difference … and the chocolate chip cookies I baked later helped even more!

  3. Yeah, why is it that when the kids get sick and need our patience the most, we don't have it in us? We all do it. Your soup sounds so yummy. I love making the healing broth. 🙂 Hope you're all feeling better.

  4. Rachael Levy says:

    Thanks, Kyndale. Chaja's on the mend and no one else caught walking pneumonia (knock on wood).

  5. anno says:

    mmm… this sounds so good, an amber jewel of a recipe — glad to hear you are all feeling better.

  6. Rachael Levy says:

    Thank you, Anno.

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