Jewish Penicillin

I’m referring to chicken soup, not quite understanding why they get the credit when the Italians swear by it as well.

Apparently it was a staple with matzoh balls on Passover, and the poorest Jewish family did whatever it took to get a chicken in honor of Shabbat, their version of Sunday.

All I know is, my mother made vats freezing Pyrex containers so we’d never be without taping dates with red magic marker on their lids.

One Thanksgiving she found one from 1961 that was Smithsonian worthy since it was 1988.

From the time I was off formula I knew chicken soup was a sick girl’s best friend (no one breast-fed in Connecticut in the 50s…did Lucy, did June Cleaver, did Lassie?).

Even last weekend the first thing I had when my stomach started taking calls was chicken broth, and call me crazy, (how hard would that be?) but I felt instantly better.

Is it our imagination to think it truly has healing properties better than over-the-counter medicine and antibiotics the size of bullets doctors tend to prescribe? No doctor I ever had said, “Go to the nearest Greek coffee shop, get some of their chicken soup…eat, sleep, then call me in the morning.”

Every diner in New York City, even if there’s a soup-of-the-day, has a pot simmering on the stove. Doesn’t that make it Greek Penicillin? Dean and Deluca, a nondenominational gourmet shop, makes it every day as does The Corner Cafe, Panera Bread and the Pastrami King on Lex.

What’s my point? I don’t have one, I’m still a little sick, but if one comes to me, you’ll be the first to know. By the way, don’t forget to toss in some love if you make a pot. It helps if your cooking skills are a little off.


Five reasons to eat chicken soup when you’re sick:

  1. Chicken contains an amino acid called cysteine. It thins out the mucous in the lungs making it easier to cough out.
  2. During times of infection, mucus can thicken into a moist, nutrient-rich environment that encourages growth of viruses and bacteria. Hot chicken soup vapors have been proven more effective than hot water vapors in cleaning the gunky mucus out of your nose.
  3. Carrots are a great source of beta-carotene. The body converts this into vitamin A, which helps prevent and fight off infections by enhancing the actions of white blood cells that destroy harmful bacteria and viruses.
  4. Onion, garlic and ginger are powerful immune-supportive spices. Onions contain quercetin, a natural anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory. The active ingredient allicin in freshly crushed garlic works like a natural antibiotic. The major active ingredients in ginger are terpenes and oleoresin, which have antiseptic, and lymph-cleansing properties and also help improve circulation.
  5. Snuggling up and sipping on warm, chicken soup when you’re feeling sick can really lift your mood and help you feel better. This may actually be the most healing property of all!

You don’t have to be sick to enjoy chicken soup. Try the following recipe, make it in bulk; share some and freeze the rest for a rainy day.

Chicken Soup

1 whole chicken*

4 carrots

4 celery stalks

1 large onion

2 cloves garlic

1 cm fresh ginger

salt and pepper to taste

Water to cover


Dice the carrots, celery and onion and put in a large soup pot with the chicken. Cover with cold water. Heat and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken meat falls off of the bones.

Take everything out of the pot. Strain the broth. Pick the meat off of the bones and discard bones. Season the broth with salt and pepper to taste. Return the chicken meat, carrots, celery and onion to the pot, stir together and serve.

*It’s important to make chicken soup using either a whole chicken or pieces of chicken that contain bones. Not only does this improve the flavor, but the bones contain nutrients such as B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and zinc, which can assist your immune cells in fighting off colds and flu.

Thank you Google!


About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Thanks.
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13 Responses to Jewish Penicillin

  1. micklively says:

    I like chicken soup too. Even sick vegetarians should try it.


  2. skinnyuz2b says:

    My mother always made chicken soup and she is of Polish and Russian descent. It really does make you feel better and is great at fighting off a cold. Clears those sinuses right out.


  3. katecrimmins says:

    The Germans make it too. My mother made her own noodles and they were the best!


  4. gmg says:

    Definitely is a nurturing food for me when I am sick, upset, cold, warm, or happy:)
    gmg (another Italian)


    • Italians…when it comes to food, there’s no contest gmg. Sick or well, we’re the mavens of the fridge…a Yiddish term I just borrowed. Since they get all the credit, it’s the least they can do 🙂


  5. Growing up I just assumed chicken soup and freshly washed sheets were prescribed by the doctor.


  6. Elle Knowles says:

    All this talk about chicken soup is making me hungry – anyway my sinuses have been acting up this week -what could it hurt!


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