Chicken Noodle Soup


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.

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Vietnamese Shrimp and Pork Belly Spring Rolls

Pen and Palate Vietnamese Shrimp and Pork Spring Rolls

illustration: tram nguyen

Last year, I signed up for a little plot in my local organic community garden with the intention of winning.  Yes, I know, it’s “not a competition.”  Never mind the fact that (a) I knew absolutely nothing about gardening and (b) I had never been able to keep a plant alive for any reasonable length of time. In fact, on two separate occasions I have murdered plants on my way home from the garden store. Mankind has been doing this since the beginning of time practically, how hard could it be? I put my dismal track record aside, imagining myself strolling home with a basket of fresh local, organic produce on my arm, maybe sporting a chic pair of Isabel Marant denim overalls, looking like a Brooklyn homesteader straight off the pages of Kinfolk.

I soon discovered that if I had to live off the land, I would be dead by autumn, or at the very least, severely malnourished. Gardening is actually hard work! I learned that the first day, sweat dripping off of me, wearing inappropriate footwear, shovelling dirt, I mean, soil, into wheelbarrows to dump into my little 4’x8′ plot for hours on end. It’s messy, and gross bugs that you can’t murder with chemicals because you’ve signed an agreement to not use pesticides, even though you’re pretty sure the couple next to you with the Schwartzenegger-sized monster tomatoes is using Miracle Gro, but of course you would never report them to the proper authorities because you’re not a snitch. It’s also not particularly cost effective? For the amount of time, energy, and money I put into the garden, I might as well have been tearing up bits of twenty dollar bills and sprinkling them in my coffee every morning. The result would have been the same. By the end of the season, I had harvested one sad little squash and the little green things that I had been dutifully watering turned out to be weeds. My mason jars would remain empty, unfulfilled.

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