Our Chicken Soup Tradition

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I come from a long line of women, and so does my chicken soup. My great-grandmother was one of three daughters. She had two daughters, my grandmother had two daughters, my mother had two daughters, and I now have two daughters.

My great-grandmother died when I was 17, so I remember her well. I remember how she carried a little handbag, just like Sophia from The Golden Girls. I remember going to her favorite Chinese restaurant near her apartment in Brooklyn. What I remember most, however, was her chicken soup with matzo balls. It was beyond delicious and I always looked forward to it when we went to visit her.

It is said that Jewish women make the best chicken soup. My family is a perfect example.

After my great-grandmother passed away, my grandmother took over making soup for the holidays. Down the line it went, and next my mom took over the role of soup maker. Somehow, she figured out how to make it just as well (if not better) than her own mother and grandmother. Our whole family looks forward to tasting her wonderful soup on holiday occasions.

When my husband and I were first married, he fell in love with my mother’s chicken soup, so much so that he asked me to learn how to make it. I wasn’t sure that I wanted this job. I had two young daughters and I knew that this recipe took hours to make. I did not have that kind of time.

After a lot of begging, I relented. One cold snowy day I called my mom and asked how to make the famous chicken soup. I was surprised when she informed me that there was no formal recipe.  She learned how to make it by observing my great-grandmother.  My mom proceeded to walk me through the steps she used while on the phone. She explained that I needed to figure some of it out on my own, by tasting and adding to it as needed. She told me the secret as to why hers is just a little better than the soup of her grandmother (but I’m not telling :)).

My husband was thrilled. It was delicious, but extremely time-consuming. I would make a big batch of soup a few times a year. I would freeze it, and we would heat it up when we had a chicken soup craving.

Sadly, my husband passed away at a very young age. After his death, I had no desire to make chicken soup anymore. It made me sad to make it without him being able to enjoy it.

And then my older daughter asked me to make chicken soup again. She told me that she loved it and missed having it in the house. I took a deep breath and went to the grocery store to buy the ingredients. On a cold winter day, I made my mom’s chicken soup for my daughter. She was so happy, and actually, so was I. It was nice to have the delicious smell wafting throughout the house again, and eating it filled both of us with good memories.

My mother’s soup is still much better than mine and she continues to make it for the holidays. I am practicing though, and have gone back to making my couple of big batches over the winter.

A few weeks ago, my daughter, who is now living in Manhattan, told me she wanted to try making the soup herself. When I asked her if she wanted my advice, she said “No mom, I have been watching you for years. I can do it.”  And she did. She took pictures of her masterpiece and texted them to my mother and me, with a message that read “good but not as good as grandma’s.” I responded by saying “neither is mine.” My mom immediately called me, so excited that her granddaughter was continuing the tradition.

Since I was not with my daughter, I was not fortunate enough to try her chicken soup. However, I am sure that she is the next in our long line of soup makers. There seems to be one in each pair of sisters: my great grandmother, my grandmother, my mother, myself, and now my daughter. I don’t believe my own sister has ever made it, and I don’t believe my younger daughter will follow in the soup footsteps. Her idea of cooking is putting a frozen waffle in the toaster.

We are looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving at my house this year. Everything will be made by me except the soup, which my mom will bring with her. We can’t wait.



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