Cooking chicken soup for joy and well-being

The very first time I boiled a whole chicken, almost 10 years ago, I was overwhelmed by how much it scented my apartment with the smell of my mom’s kitchen. I wasn’t trying to recreate his samgyetang, but I did, by accident.

Fortified with ginseng and jujubes, this Korean chicken soup is a garlic lover’s dream. I remember how the sound of cloves planted in the pot echoed the syllables in the name of the dish: Sam. Hi. Silk.

But it was the smell of my golden broth that carried me away. When I breathed in its aroma, the past ran through me like an electric current and I burst into tears. Sick with longing (and a cold), I suddenly found myself in two places at once: my kitchenette in New York City and Atlanta, where I was born and raised in a brick house with a peach tree in it. the courtyard and my childhood bedroom lined with posters of Michelle Branch.

There are many definitions of the sensation that invaded my body that day, but perhaps the most famous is what the French novelist Marcel Proust called involuntary memory, and what we now sometimes call “Proustian memory.” “. It is a reference to a particular scene from his seven-volume novel “In Search of Lost Time”, in which the narrator is suddenly seized by childhood memories after taking a bite of a lemon madeleine soaked in tea.

“No sooner did the hot liquid mixed with the crumbs touch my palate when a shiver ran through me and I stopped, thinking of the extraordinary thing that was happening to me,” writes Proust. “Where could this all-powerful joy come from?

When these involuntary memories occur in my life, I try to dwell on the feeling.

What turns me on in the kitchen, and what gives me the most joy, is when I accidentally tap into something old, an involuntary memory, something that I had forgotten in the back of my mind, like the simple smell of a chicken boiling in water.

This is the kind of cooking that I would love to do more of in the New Year. If I make up my mind to find these little moments of “almighty joy” in the kitchen and outside, at my desk and in life, perhaps they will have a better chance of being revealed to me. Maybe I’ll taste more Proustian madeleines, and maybe I’ll cry more. (Crying has many health benefits, after all.)

Fortunately, there are plenty of places to find great tea-steeped madeleines, metaphorically speaking. And when you need warmth and solace most, chicken soup is never a bad place to start.

Amber Spry, assistant professor of African and African American studies and politics at Brandeis University, recalls approximating her grandmother’s tinola, a Filipino soup often made with chunks of chicken, ginger fresh and green vegetables.

When she was growing up, Dr. Spry, 32, called this dish “ginger chicken soup,” and it occurred to her when she first moved to New York City. She called her parents to ask them how to make the soup, picked up the ingredients at a local bodega, and splashed them around in her tiny apartment on Amsterdam Avenue.

“It was almost this instinct to create this thing that felt familiar to me,” she said, and now, “when I want that feeling of coziness and home, I know I can l ‘get through this soup. “

Almost a decade later, conjuring a jar of tinola still carries Dr. Spry’s past into its present. “This recipe was my father’s and grandmother’s and probably her mother’s before that,” she said.

Recently her father cooked his version of the soup, and this time it was her new husband, David Labuguen, who shuddered as he ate it. “It was touching for him because it tasted like the soup his parents make,” said Dr Spry, adding that there is great power in simple ingredients, like chicken and ginger, when ‘they come together to form a bridge between people who love one. another one.

Food is one of the best ways to transport our families with us wherever we go. Except for a flight home, is there anything more transporting than the Legacy?

I have never forgotten what a privilege it is to cook for a living. But there are days when I languish in the kitchen, tired of cooking. (It’s cleaning that destroys me the most.) And especially last year when it seemed like the world was falling apart again, I sometimes struggled to find joy in it all.

Comfort food can be hard to come by if you have to.

In Brooklyn, when Chef Kia Damon comes home hungry and tired from a long day at work, she keeps it simple in the kitchen. Drawing on memories of her childhood meals prepared by her mother, who cooked a lot of pasta, Ms. Damon, 28, now turns to her own comfort foods, like carbonara.

“I feel like when I’m super drained and when I really don’t have anything on my mind, I can always pull out pasta and feel like I’ve really exploded,” she said.

As with any craft – and I plan to cook a craft, especially home cooking – it’s important to recharge when you can. Fortunately, for those of us who cook for work, there are some key dishes that help us remember the unbridled joy of cooking.

For Ms. Damon, it’s a duck confit flavored with orange peel, star anise and juniper berries over two to three days. This is what she would cook if she could only cook one more thing.

“I would eat that, then I would wait for the spirit to take me,” she said.

My cooking for the last meal on earth is roasting chicken. I love making myself a little bird on the weekends, because that’s when I have all the time in the world. In this case, the process provides joy. I can salt and sweeten the chicken on Saturdays, leaving it in dry brine in the refrigerator overnight; on Sunday my dinner is ready for the oven.

Consumption is also long: roast chicken has several stages of life – I can cook it once and eat it for days. Because as much as I like to cook, I like to eat more.

First it’s dinner, often the magnificent chicken breast, absolutely juicy, with crispy skin. Best of all, if you’re like my mom and me, your favorite parts of the chicken are a secret: the two “oysters” under the bird, hidden behind the thighs, tender and drizzled with schmaltz. One for each of us.

After that first meal, I like to tear the rest of the meat from the bones to make all kinds of meals throughout the week. Then – and this is perhaps my favorite part – I turn the carcass into broth with the pieces and bobs I have left in the pantry: bay leaves, black pepper, an onion with its peel (which my mom taught me to add both color and flavor to soups and stews).

The Instant Pot takes care of it quickly. In just an hour, it will pressure cook my past, present and future in golden broth that I can drink in the morning before my coffee. I use the same Ravenclaw mug for the coffee and broth, washing it between uses.

The roast chicken may be my therapy, but the chicken soup is my panacea, my madeleine soaked in tea.

Receipts: Roast Chicken With Caramelized Cabbage | Roast Chicken Broth

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