Can you believe my husband and I are having an all out chicken soup war?!!
I’ve been sick as a dog the last 3 days and the only thing my stomach could tolerate was ginger tea with fresh mint. So this afternoon I took it as a good sign when I began to crave good ol’ fashioned chicken soup. Y’know, the kind your mother used to make.
Well, not MY mother.
My mother is a gourmet cook and she does make an amazing avgolemono (Greek lemon chicken and rice soup) but that’s not what I was craving. I wanted the homemade chicken and vegetable soup that I used to make for my kids when they were sick. And sometimes even when they weren’t sick, but just wanted Mom’s “famous” chicken soup.
If you know me, you know that cooking isn’t something I do often, or well. But chicken soup, that’s where I shine.
So I ask my husband to please go to Whole Foods and bring me back a small organic chicken, along with organic celery, carrots, potatoes, an onion, garlic and lemon. “I’m gonna make chicken soup,” I announce proudly, in between sneezes. “Great!” he says, “I’ll be right back.”
So off he goes to Whole Foods…and comes back with a Stop-and-Shop receipt.
I quietly unpack the groceries, silently wondering why the only organic choice he made, other than the chicken, was the fresh mint. And why the heck did he buy corn on the cob?
“Here,” he says, holding the kitchen scissors. “Let me cut the chicken into pieces.”
“What? No, I boil it whole to make the stock.”
“My mother used to cook it in pieces,” he says.
“Thank you, but no, let me cook the chicken my way. Now go!”
I shoo him off and proceed to wash the chicken, then put it in a pot with a few stalks of celery, a quartered onion, salt and pepper, parsley and a few cloves of garlic.
While the chicken is boiling, I chop the veggies in perfectly even pieces: celery, carrots, onions, potatoes, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, and more garlic. I take out a large frying pan, drizzle it with olive oil, then dump the veggies in, and begin to sauté.
“What are you doing?” he asks. “Why not just put the vegetables in the pot with the chicken and cook them all together? That’s the way my mother used to do it.”
A little background: Osvaldo Gold and I have been married for 29 years, nearly all of which (while raising our three kids) it has been ME in the kitchen, until a couple of years ago when we became empty nesters and he suddenly became interested in cooking. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, given that cooking is not my passion, but getting advice rooted in memories of his mother’s cooking is not something that interests me. He’s never boasted about his mother’s cooking. In fact, I have been forbidden our entire marriage from using a crock pot because it reminds him of the overcooked meat and mushy vegetables she used to serve every Friday night. In her defense, so did every other Jewish mother on the Sabbath, but still, I’m not going to take recipe advice from my husband, or my mother in law.
“This is the way I make soup,” I say. “I cook the vegetables separately.”
“But that’s another pan to wash,” he says.
“Ok but call me when the soup is done, and I’ll cut the chicken into pieces.”
“I don’t need you to cut the chicken into pieces,” I repeat. “I’m going to debone it, it’s fine, just go.”
Once the chicken is cooked throughout, you strain the broth, throw away the overcooked onion and celery, and then with your hands, gently tear off pieces of the chicken meat from the bone.
“Why don’t you leave the bones in?” he asks. “That’s the best part, to eat the chicken off the bone.”
Now I’m really confused. “Your mother served chicken soup with the bones still in the chicken?” I ask, my voice starting to raise slightly.
“Of course! You dish out the soup in a bowl, then put the chicken pieces on top. And then the corn,” he adds.
So that’s what the corn on the cob was for.
“But then how do you eat it?” I ask, knowing in the back of my mind what MIGHT be the answer, though hoping it won’t be.
“With a fork and knife,” he answers.
OH MY GOD NO!!!!
Again, let me remind you that we’ve been married for 29 years (although as I write this it feels more like 50) and I have witnessed this man eat all kinds of food with a fork and knife. Food that shouldn’t be allowed to be eaten with a fork and knife, like pizza for example, or a cheeseburger and fries. Yes, even the fries. He also slices a muffin into thin wafers before eating it piece by piece, and he eats fruit first by paring the skin off, and then eating each piece with a fork.
My husband is a native of Uruguay, and although he has lived in this country for 30 years, the “American way” of eating with your hands still doesn’t sit right with him. I have learned to live with it, and barely notice it anymore. The kids, on the other hand, still tease him at times, and when they were younger they would beg, “Papi, please don’t eat pizza with a fork in front of my friends!”
But I have to draw the line somewhere. And eating SOUP WITH A FORK AND KNIFE….ABSAHFRIGGENLUTELY NOT!
“How about you make your chicken soup, or whatever you call it, tomorrow night. But MY soup doesn’t have bones, and it’s eaten with a spoon, ok?”
“Ok, ok,” he says. “But can you just put this in the last few minutes, so it doesn’t get all mushy,” and he hands me an ear of corn, cut into 4 chunks.
“You want me to put corn on the cob in the soup?” I ask.
“Yeah,” he said. “My mother…”
“HOW do you intend to eat the corn on the cob in your SOUP?” My voice louder now.
“With… my…hands…?” He answers quietly.
“LEAVE THE KITCHEN NOW BEFORE I DUMP THIS SOUP ON THE FLOOR!”
“Ok, ok, ok!” He says, as he inches himself out of the kitchen and heads down the stairs to his man cave.
I turn up the music and let Krishna Das serenade me back into peacetime, while I finish sautéing the veggies, debone the chicken, combine the two together in the broth, spice it up with pink Himalayan sea salt and crushed black pepper, a bit of chopped parsley and fresh lemon, and then let it all simmer together for about a half an hour.
Then… “Dinner’s ready!” I announce.
“It’s safe to come up?” he asks.
“It is,” I say.
I hand him a large bowl of steaming hot soup, with generous pieces of chicken amidst glistening vegetables… and a chunk of corn on the cob nestled in between.
Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from 29 years of marriage, it’s that COMPROMISE, like chicken soup, is good for the soul.
I feel better already.