A Year in Chicken Soup

 

A series by Hattie Garlick

 

A tear in Chicken Soup header image

I am deep within the annual existential crisis otherwise know as The January Spring Clean. Literally so: I’m up to my knees in books, flung from their roosts on the book shelves in a desperate attempt to Get Rid Of This Infernal Clutter. I lift one at random and blow a film of dust from its decorative cover: Arabesque by Claudia Roden, one of my favourite cookbooks …

As Cambodians wake and shake their dreams from their slumbering limbs, they face a real working day that is likely to revolve around rice. According to a recent report by the New York Times, 80 per cent of the population work on the paddies. Which explains why Da, a Cambodian now transplanted to the urban fringes of London, says that Chicken Rice Soup — or borbo sach moan — runs in her veins. … (read on)

The first lesson of chicken soup club is this: you do not choose your chicken soup, your chicken soup chooses you.

As soon as I announce my plans to cook a different incarnation of the classic comfort food every month for a year, the Chicken Soup Conflict erupts. “My grandmother's Jewish penicillin is THE best!!!” emails a vague acquaintance. “Mexican chicken soup! Which other country actively encourages you to take both chocolate and tequila with your cure?” texts a friend. 

I’ve had to source some difficult ingredients for previous chicken soups – a kosher boiler chicken, memorably, and pepper from a particular province of Cambodia. This has to rank as the trickiest, though. For Mexico’s contribution to The Year in Chicken Soup I had to find a baby of less than 40 days old…

A friend’s grandmother, a holocaust survivor, recently turned ninety-five. Surveying her life, she gave the following advice to young women: “be happy every day, eat, wear a scarf and don’t marry a schmendrick.” It seemed like a good idea to heed her tip-off, and make Jewish chicken soup the second ‘chicken soup from around the globe’ to be cooked in our Comfort Food Cafe…

Join Hattie Garlick at Hackney's Ridley Road market to find the ingredients for her latest recipe, a soup so substantial that it was served with knife and fork...