When I was a kid, if I got a cold or the flu, instead of coddling me my mother would scold me for getting sick. She’d attribute my condition to either a weak moral constitution or my refusal to wear that embarrassing magenta snowsuit (that she had spent good money on!) to school. And then she’d cook me chicken glass noodle soup from scratch, with homemade broth infused with ginger, tender poached chicken, thin slivers of shiitake mushrooms, and silky glass noodles.
The lectures used to irritate me, until I found myself doing the same thing to my own poor invalid boyfriend. I was irate that he’d had the audacity to fall ill during a particularly brutal Chicago winter. All those years later, I finally realized that my mom’s behavior was all coming from a place of love. These days, I rarely get sick, and I attribute my robust immune system to years of her conditioning. Thanks mom!
Before I can get too smug about my health, I’m currently battling the flu, which is just stupid because it’s 80 degrees outside and sunny. So I called my mom up for a mild scolding (her diagnosis: “staying up too late”) and then I went looking for a Vietnamese chicken soup recipe. I stumbled upon this one from The Ravenous Couple. I started reading the post, which recounted one family’s exodus from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, and by the end of it I was an embarrassingly snotty, weepy mess. I’ve heard variations on these boat people stories my entire life, from my own family, and from friends and acquaintances, but hearing a person’s individual experience is always affecting. It’s endlessly fascinating to me, the deeply personal connections we have with certain dishes, and how disparate they can be. Chicken soup to me is forever associated with my own mother’s idiosyncratic version of TLC. To this family, well…I’m not going to spoil it for you. Just read it please.
There is a recipe for the noodle soup at the end, which sounds delicious but that I never got around to making because duh, I’ve got the flu (I might have been a little ambitious in my delirium. I settled for a very sodium rich, very mediocre version from Whole Foods instead.), but I highly recommend clicking over if you like crying, and chicken soup, and having your heart broken a little.