We all know that Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield is popular for inspirational true stories. And I am going to share my own version of chicken soup story, reminiscing my childhood story.
What’s the most nostalgic memory of your childhood? Your first book? Christmas parties and gifts? For me, it’s my mama’s chicken soup. Food that we cherished at home often left unforgettable happy memories. Food shared among family and friends unites and bonds friendship.
I could still remember the chipped white and blue enameled pot sitting on the charcoal stove, its contents bubbling, steam rising as if from an active volcano. When I entered the kitchen, the aroma was not only mouthwatering but reassuring. Whether my maid or my mother was standing over the pot stirring with a long wooden ladle or not, I knew I was home.
There was no exact recipe for her chicken soup. The chicken soup always evolves from generation to generation. It had been so since her childhood in the harbor city of Surabaya. My mama learned the soup recipe from her mother (grandma), who had inherited it from generations of grandmas. My mother was raised in such a large family. Chicken soup definitely fed all her siblings and none ever went hungry. It was a family recipe. And every family makes chicken soup differently.
My mama’s chicken soup is a clear soup, had a mix of vegetables like carrots, potatoes, french bean plus chicken, sausages and fried prawn dough added into the soup. Each potato and carrot were peeled, the french bean was cut into small pieces and the whole chicken was boiled until they produced thick broth. I often watched my maid cook the chicken soup and sometimes I couldn’t wait until the soup was ready to serve. I ate the fried prawn dough first before the soup was ready to serve. My mama knew something missing in the soup. My maid said, “It was the little girl who finished all the fried prawn dough.”
At one time, however, I compared mama’s chicken soup with my aunt’s chicken tomato soup. My aunt’s chicken soup was like red tomato soup with only carrot, tomatoes and plenty of meat, ham and sausages. My aunt was a tall woman and she was very talkative because she was from another province and she had a big family. Often, she invited us and other relatives for family gathering. She cooked red tomato soup and other delicious food. The food was good, and we often finished them, served hot from her kitchen. Moreover, the conversation matched the food. Everything was so good. My aunt’s family, our family and other relatives were noisy, and the conversation in the living room was lively. And we laughed while chatting! Today, my cousins and I are grown up old. When they rekindled the past, they remembered how they visited our home or aunt’s home and remembered the food, especially the chicken soup.
Years passed. My mama’s chicken soup is the favourite dish in my family. That’s how my children called it. I raised two daughters and my mama’s chicken soup recipe is part of their heritage now. And getting around the table to eat mama’s chicken soup with my children and husband is the most cherished and healing family experience for them. I hope when my children grow and spread their wings and leave the parents’ home, mama’s chicken soup will bring back happy and healing memories of their childhood. And it will be something that will grow strong family bond between them and their children.