Soup is the food of the broken hearted. While Hallmark movies make you believe it is cupcakes, and Lifetime makes you believe it is Chardonnay, the reality is, when our hearts are broken, we need comfort and nourishment, not a sugar crash and a hangover.
Right now, my mother-in-law is broken hearted. My father-in-law has end-stage Alzheimer’s and she has had to say good-bye without being able to let go. She sees him, but he doesn’t see her. And there is no hope that it will ever get better. She’s leaning heavily on Tim and his sister, but there is only so much comfort you can give someone whose heart is breaking minute by minute over the course of years. It is excruciating all the way around.
As the daughter-in-law, I’m not a good source of emotional comfort. As much as I love my father-in-law, he isn’t my dad. I don’t have memories of him buying me my first pair of red Keds, or teaching me how to ski. He came into my life when I was already an adult, so my memories are more muted: a kind, generous, and gentle man who passed on those traits to his son, who I was lucky enough to marry.
So, as daughter-in-law, I want to provide comfort in the way I know best – with food. And it can’t be any food. It has to be able to survive the six hour drive from our home to my mother-in-law’s. It has to be good frozen and then reheated. It has to be gentle on the bruised soul, but hearty enough to say, “This is really hard, but you are going to be okay.” It has to be good enough to share with a friend who may stop by to check on you, but easy enough to eat in front of the TV if you are alone.
Soup. More specifically, soup from scratch, start to finish. Soup with bone broth, chicken, and just enough seasoning to not feel “medicinal” or childish.
To get this just right, you need two days – a day and a half for the bone broth and a few more hours for all the chicken and vegetables to marry well. A third day, like when you are driving to a loved one is ideal, but I realize may be asking too much.
I don’t profess that this soup will mend a broken heart; sometimes that simply isn’t possible. But I do believe it can show someone you love them even if their heart will remain broken forever.
There isn’t really a recipe for this. I change up what I used depending on the season and what looks the best in the store. For this version, I used:
homemade chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil AND butter
*shredded cooked chicken
Rough chop all of your veggies. Heat olive and oil and a few tablespoons of butter in a heavy dutch oven or stock pot. Throw in the onions, celery, and carrots. Saute (but don’t brown) for about 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower and keep cooking for about 15 more minutes. You want the vegetables softened, but not mushy. Add the zucchini, kale, and swiss chard and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover and lower to simmer. Cook for about an hour. Five minutes before serving, add some more olive oil and a little more butter (and the chicken, if you are using). This soup needs to taste rich, not like prison rations – don’t be skimpy with the fat.
**If I have an extra parmesan rind in the freezer, I will add that when I add the stock to add another dimension of flavor.