I love the term “comfort food.” We can all relate to using food (and more often drink) to comfort us. When we feel sad some of us reach for a brownie. When we feel out of sorts we might want something salty. And on those really bad days chocolate covered pretzels are f-ing genius.
We’ve all heard the term “chicken soup for the soul.” And speaking of chicken soup, it has been CLINICALLY PROVEN to alleviate cold and flu symptoms. So I reiterate my point that food has the ability to make us feel better. That is probably why nearly every culture responds to death and grief with the bringing of food to those who have lost a loved one.
I lost my Mom suddenly six years ago and the amount of food that showed up was astounding. Friends of my parents who own a very popular restaurant catered my Mom’s wake with all of her favorites–lamp chop popsicles, cheesy meatloaf, pulled pork barbeque (the woman was a carnivore, no lie). It struck me at the time that here was all this food but no one had much of an appetite. I dutifully packaged it into smaller meals I could freeze for my Dad and I think he really appreciated not having to think about how to feed himself when he was down in the weeds in his grief.
I think we show up with food because its something we CAN do at a time when we feel so powerless. I have said before that I love people with my food. My heart goes into every recipe. And so it was last week when my neighbors lost their beautiful 24 year old daughter in a tragic car accident. A stunning girl, known for her big heart gone in the blink of an eye at the prime of her life.
I don’t know these neighbors very well but as a parent their loss hit home. I cannot imagine the bottomless pit of their grief. And there really is NOTHING anyone can do to make it better. So I donned my apron and did what I do. I made them a pot of Lemon Spinach Chicken Noodle Soup. And today I made them another pot of soup, this time Beef Vegetable.
My family came home last night to the smell of the soup simmering on the stove. I think they were surprised when I called them to dinner and served hot dogs and salad. My son wanted to know where that soup was and I explained I had not made that batch for us. The kids were quiet for a moment, because what can you say really? Soup has no magical healing power when it comes to grief.
But that pot of soup was made with love and that is all we really can do in times of insurmountable tragedy. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” –Mark 12:31
Lemon Chicken Spinach Soup–
Poach chicken thighs by putting into a crock pot with diced onions, celery, parsley, salt and pepper and covering with water. I let mine cook on low overnight then in the morning remove the chicken to a plate with a slotted spoon to cool before removing the skin and bones and shredding the chicken. Strain the broth and reserve the stock.
In a heavy stockpot saute chopped leeks, onions, celery, and carrots in EVOO or butter. Let cook on medium until vegetables are soft–15 minutes or so. Meanwhile, cook a bag of egg noodles according to package directions, drain and set aside. Add the stock to the vegetables and season with salt, pepper, parsley, bay leaf, rosemary and other herbs and spices according to your preference.
Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and add the shredded chicken, egg noodles and 2 cups of chopped fresh spinach. The longer you simmer the more the flavors will meld. I like to add the juice of a whole lemon and some fresh chopped parsley before serving.