I have a head cold. My sinuses are so congested and full I think my head is going to explode. It is days like these when I wish I wasn’t an adult. My mom would bring to my bedroom a bedtray of chicken noodle soup, flat gingerale with a straw, cold wash cloths for my forehead and custard if my throat was sore. She would also include little treats from her tickle trunk on the bedtray like puzzle books or tiny animal figurines or swizzle sticks and freshly sharpened pencil crayons. My mom was an angel when I was sick…she is an angel all the time. When I was younger I didn’t appreciate her the way I do now. I was too busy being a teen with all that entails. I think it’s a safe bet to say most of us in younger versions of ourselves have said in moments of perceived injustice “When I am grown up I am never going to be like my mom!”. That’s a teen doing his job and a mom doing hers. I sound like my mom now “Put a hat on, you’ll catch a cold!” and “If you are sick, you stay in bed, no t.v.” All sage advice. Mom’s invariably know best.
Now that I am a mother of three children, I wonder especially on days like today “What did mom do when she was sick?” I have this sinking feeling I already know the answer. Mom’s hold the family together whether they are sick or not. Like the “Go Fish Guys” say “If you need a sick day, but instead you’re gonna play. You’re a mom.”
Yesterday, my mom saved me yet again. She brought me a goody bag of two Costco chickens, a banana bread, an abundance of fresh herbs and tomatoes from her garden to give me a hand. I know from experience the best medicine for a cold is in the food I eat. Chicken soup with pistou is the only thing I ever want. Why? Because for me it works.
I stripped the chickens of their meat and browned the carcasses along with 4 lg quartered onions, 2 lg carrots roughly chopped, two heads of garlic, cloves separated and smashed, 4 ribs of celery roughly chopped and 2 handfuls of brussel sprouts in a 450 oven for 30 to 40 minutes. The bones and veg were spread in a single layer, lightly drizzled with grapeseed oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Once browned the veg and bones were put in a stock pot and covered with cold water. To this I added the rind of a chunk of parmigiano reggiano (combined with the chicken adds incredible umami), several roughly chopped tomatoes and a bouquet garni of thyme, parsley stalks, cilantro stalks, bay, margoram, a dozen peppercorns and 3 thai chilies. I brought this to a boil, reduced the heat and let it simmer for at least 2 hours. Longer is better. Skim off the skum as it rises to the top.
After two hours strain the liquid and discard all solids, the solids have done their job. At this point you can reduce the liquid by half and end up with an intensely flavoured stock. Or, being impatient, like I am, finely chop 1 large onion, 1 large carrot, 2 ribs of celery, 2 potatoes, 2 large cloves of garlic and simmer for 20 minutes before adding some of the shredded chicken and a dollop of pistou for a delicious restorative soup.
Pistou is very similar to the Italian condiment pesto. It is simply a 40 g package of basil, 4 lg cloves of garlic roughly chopped, 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese puréed with 1/2 c of olive oil.
As I tuck into my bowl of yummy, I think warm fuzzy thoughts of my mom. My son has had enough of my ruminations and it’s time to play. I love you mom, you are the best!