The Yiddishe Mamma’s Spell: Chicken Soup

— by Ronit Treatman

In his incredible scientific cookbook Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, Dr. Nathan Myhrvold describes how to trap all of the odors and flavors of chicken soup in a test tube.  He is then able to preserve this super concentrated broth for later consumption.  From a scientific point of view, this is exciting and thrifty.  Nothing is wasted!  But this is not the way of the Yiddishe Mamma.

More after the jump.

For me, a Yiddishe Mamma, chicken soup is not just food; it is a spell that I cast.  I begin the process with cold filtered water, the best quality kosher chicken, and the freshest vegetables.  I place all these ingredients together in a pot, and let them simmer slowly over the stove.  The soup fills my home with its delicious aroma.  When my child arrives home and opens the door, he is embraced by the delectable smell of my chicken soup.  He instantly knows that he is loved.  As he steps into the kitchen, I tell him, “Sit down, ketzale (little cat), have some soup.”   My son sits down at the kitchen table, and I place a steaming bowl of soup in front of him.  He savors his first spoonful of my golden chicken broth with little square egg noodles.  The balance of chicken, vegetables, salt, and noodles is just right!  I can see him sigh with pleasure and begin to relax.  It is only then that I ask him, “Nu, so, my child, tell me what happened.”

The women in my family have been casting this spell for generations.  They also made their own egg noodles from scratch.  I buy Manischewitz egg noodles for my soups.  Here is our chicken soup recipe:

Yiddishe Mamma’s Chicken Soup

  • 1 fresh (never frozen!) kosher chicken, with the skin removed
  • 6 large carrots
  • 1 large Spanish onion
  • 1 large parsley root
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 1 bunch parsley leaves
  • 1 bunch dill leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of salt, or to taste
  • 3 quarts cold, filtered water
  1. Place the chicken, onion, carrots, celery, parsley root, water, and salt in a stockpot.  Cover and bring to a boil.
  2. Lower the heat, and allow the soup to simmer for one hour.
  3. Add the parsley and dill during the last 15 minutes of cooking time.
  4. Cook the egg noodles according to the instructions on the package.

Nathan Myhrvold is an inventor, a scientist, and a master French chef.  Dr. Myhrvold worked with Microsoft for thirteen years, acquiring over 30,000 patents. This is the conundrum Dr. Myhrvold: by concentrating the chicken soup’s aromas and flavors, you dilute its power.  Generations of Yiddishe Mammas will attest to that!


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