One Hour Chicken Soup

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Imagine this. You get a terrible cold, you’re sick as a dog, your boyfriend gets you juice, soup (Pho from down the street), the works. Then you get better, fly to Florida for your parents’ 40th wedding anniversary, and while there, your boyfriend breaks the news: he has your cold. You’re not there to help, though, so when you return on Sunday–and he’s at the peak of his illness–you know you have to spring into action. You’ve gotta make up for all the TLC you weren’t there to give him during the first two days of his illness. Upon landing at the airport, you rush to the grocery store and stock up on everything you need to make the ultimate cold cure, Jewish penicillin: chicken soup. Only, you want to make it fast.

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Cold-Killing Chicken Soup with Ginger, Chili Paste and Soy Sauce

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The first time that I made a really good chicken soup (documented here), it felt like I’d translated an ancient Jewish text–the Dead Soup Scrolls–and that the resulting soup was irrefutable, everlasting, not-to-be-tampered with. Then, over time, I began to realize that the recipe, which is really just a formula for a very concentrated chicken stock, flavored with root vegetables, and freshened up with more vegetables and dill at the end, was really just that: a formula. A guideline. You could play around and the Jewish police wouldn’t arrest you. So, a few weeks ago, when I had the start of a pretty nasty cold, I decided to integrate some of the flavors that make ramen so curative when colds start to hit hard. And the results were tremendous indeed.

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Chicken Soup to the Rescue (The 2nd Ave. Deli Delivers)

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The scene: our living room. Craig is sneezing, coughing, blowing his nose. He’s not happy. He’s feeling unwell. Me? I’m ok, I’ve avoided the cold so far. But I am sympathetic, I am suggesting he buy cold medicine, and then I suggest what my mother and grandmother would undoubtedly suggest if they were in the room too: “Chicken Soup.”

As it happens, Craig is reading New York Magazine and stumbles across an article about the best soups in New York and a big full-page spread about The 2nd Ave. Deli’s chicken soup. For years, I’ve declared that chicken soup my favorite in the city; when it was close to NYU (before it was relocated), I would go there religiously if I ever felt unwell. And this article, called “Deliverence,” was all about how the 2nd Ave. Deli will now deliver a tub of chicken soup to your door in 30 minutes. It would cost $22.95 plus delivery charges, a ridiculous price to pay for any other soup; but this is the 2nd Ave. Deli chicken soup we’re talking about, a cold-killing elixir stronger than any medicine a doctor would prescribe. I lifted the phone, I dialed the numbers, and 30 minutes later…

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Asian Penicillin

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I have a stripper cold. I caught the cold from a friend who caught it from her boyfriend who caught it from a stripper. In addition to the night sweats and post-nasal drip, the pole-dancing is exhausting and if Annie Lennox’s “Little Bird” plays one more time I’m going to scream. At least the tips are good.

In the past, when I caught a cold, I headed straight to the East Village for my favorite cold remedy at the Second Avenue Deli. You can read about my last visit here. That last visit was truly a last visit: the 2nd Avenue Deli is no more. Their soup–the best chicken soup in the city, as far as I was concerned–was fragrant, potent, and completely curative: one sip and I’d automatically feel better. When it closed down, I grew deeply concerned about what I’d do if I caught a cold. Where would I go? What would I do?

The answer, surprisingly, was only one avenue away. There on 1st avenue is a soup just as potent, just as curative, and way more exotic. That soup belongs to David Chang, its served at Momofuku, and its listed on the menu as “Chicken Ramen.” The ramen, of course, refers to the noodles; but I’m here to praise the soup. Having made my own chicken stock before, I marvel at how miraculous Chang’s chicken broth is: it’s a deep golden color, it’s incredibly rich and it’s truly well-salted. One spoonful, and suddenly I started to question my allegiance to my own culture’s form of penicillin: do the Asians have the Jews beat? I’m not sure. But immediately I started to feel better, and now I know where to head the next time I get a stripper cold.

I’d say more, but Elizabeth Berkeley’s giving me the evil eye….