I've always hated Chicken Noodle Soup. That's probably because the only kind I remember eating as a child was the canned stuff. Mushy noodles, super salty broth but otherwise flavorless. I know it's supposed to be this delicious remedy for colds and other ailments but I steer clear. Well, that was until I had my friend Tony's Chicken Noodle Soup last year in Argentina. The broth was green from all the herbs and it had a silky viscosity that lingered on my tongue. It was full of bright veggies and, unlike it's American canned counterparts, had just the right amount of salt. I ate so much of that soup that I ended up not going out tango dancing that evening (a completely fair trade off). My best friend and I came back to the states and were craving that soup on a cool winter day. We sent Tony a message and he responded that he doesn't give out that recipe. So she and I decided to go to the store to buy whatever we could pull from our collective taste-bud memory. He eventually sent us the recipe and it turned out that we had bought all the correct ingredients: butter, oregano, basil, soy sauce, veggies, wide egg noodles, etc. We made and ate it together and it instantly transported us back to that tiny apartment on a freezing Buenos Aires night, surrounded by friends and hot Chicken Noodle Soup.
I've just recently moved to San Diego. It's already "cold" here by my Floridian standards. My studio is 326 square feet and my kitchen could fit in half of my last apartment's closet. I am not deterred from cooking. The process is therapy for me. It's my time to quiet down the noise of my life and really just be alone with fresh ingredients, the smell of herbs and seasonings and the heat of the stove. The experience heals my soul. Every. Time. So I woke up on Veteran's Day wanting to make a tart with some kind of berry compote and use the lemons growing outside my door to whip up a lemon-mascarpone. Instead, I opted for Tony's Chicken Noodle Soup. For starters, it was cold outside. I wanted to heat up my apartment with gas burners because I have no heat otherwise. I also was heading into my part-time job where we would be providing free meals to all active and retired military. We were super-staffed, more so than on a Friday night. All the servers were dreading going to work because they felt they wouldn't make much money from tips on free or almost-free checks. I spent 2 hours making the soup. I poured my love into it (I also might have dipped my finger in once or twice, just for quality control purposes). I brought the soup to work and set it up on the counter with a ladle, spoons and some cups. The restaurant was busy, the lunch crew was trying to leave, the dinner crew was taking over and the pulse of energy moving in that place was tight and nervous. Slowly, everyone had some soup and slowly, the energy changed. I fed these hungry, tense people, my friends and coworkers, and their moods lightened. Everyone seemed so happy and grateful that I had brought in real food, non-work food! They all thanked me in a very genuine way, in a way that I felt their gratitude in their tone, and I was happy the rest of the evening.
I might not be the best at a lot of things. I fail as a human being on a regular basis, but when I cook to heal my soul and then share that food with others, in hopes of healing theirs, we are all lifted to a better place, if even for a short time. This is the power of a good bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup.