Well, when someone is really sick—a la post cancer surgery and undergoing six months of chemotherapy—you make them a super soup: nutrient dense, easy-to-digest, chicken bone broth, mushroom decoction and simmered vegetable soup. Not only is it uber nourishing, but the processes to extract the nutrients from bone and mushrooms contribute a generous amount of the coveted fifth flavor, umami. So the soup is really, really tasty. The kind of tasty that isn’t purely the joy of sweetness, nor the straightforward allure of saltiness, but with every sip, your whole body says “Yes! More of that, please.”
As a student of natural medicine and a healthy-food blogger, I believe in the healing power of food. It’s a joy for me to be able to produce a bowl of goodness that springs from natural medicine traditions, good ingredients, forethought, and love.
The more I learn about healing, however, the more I realize that food isn’t the very best tool we have. The most powerful healing tool of all is to help someone feel cared for. Making the soup, delivering it with a hug and a smile, and providing thoughtful personalized presentation all provide this imperative medicine called caring.
I made this soup and other similar soups for a friend of the family who is focusing her days on healing, and adorned the jars of brothy deliciousness with adorable personalized labels. Her daughter arrived for a week-long visit (just one of several visits over these past, and the next few, months), and after seeing these special labeled soups in the freezer she wrote this open thank you letter:
“My sister, Lorraine, who is my ‘step’ by technicality but not in my heart, has gone out of her way to give to my ailing mother. …In May my mother was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. Her diet changed drastically through surgery, and now continues to change through her 6 months of biweekly chemotherapy. My mother has not had the energy to cook through her treatments.
Lorraine has been studying Naturopathic and Classical Chinese medicine for 3 years, working toward a degree. She took it upon herself to make healthy elixirs; an army of soups with ingredients that help soothe the body and regain health. In particular, soups made from chicken bone, a nutrient found to be very healing during chemotherapy treatments.
Over the past 2 months, Lorraine has hand delivered dozens of pints to my mother. The last few quarts were adorned with pretty labels that read: “Get Well: made especially for Jean,” along with “Nourishing bone broth, vegetable and mushroom soup.”
I just wanted to say thank you, Lorraine, for being so thoughtful, and for giving my mother the nutritional ammunition to fight her cancer.
-Tessa and Jean”
- 2-3 quarts water
- bones salvaged from one whole chicken, or whatever pieces of good quality chicken, lamb or beef bone you have
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 lb crimini, shiitake or maitake mushrooms, sliced
- 3-4 sweet or storage onions, chopped and sauteed
- ½ lb carrots, chopped
- ½ lb celery, chopped
- 1 lb sweet potato or yam, chopped
- ½ head of garlic, coarsely chopped
- Salt to taste
- Start by making the bone broth by simmering the bones and vinegar in a slow cooker for at least 12 hours (I simmered mine for 2 days). Add the mushrooms and simmer for at least 3 more hours (I simmered this again for 2 days, until the mushrooms stopped floating).
- Render the broth into a large soup pot, add the onions, carrots, celery, yam, sweet potato, garlic and salt. Simmer for an hour or two until the vegetables are soft.
- Place the soup into wide-mouth pint-sized canning jars, leaving an inch of space at the top (this makes them more successful in the freezer). Cap the jars and allow them to cool on a table or counter top. Label the jars once they are close to room temperature, then refrigerate and allow them to get very cool before placing them in the freezer.
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