I love making soups on days like today. It’s frosty outside. The sky is moody grey. A chill threatens. This morning, instead of walking my lab, Gracie, I padded about the kitchen in my old handmade sweater and slippers. Rummaging through the fridge and pantry, I searched for whatever caught my fancy. Into the soup kettle it went. I create soups intuitively. Having at one time cooked for 45 people for months at a time, I have made enough soups to know what works and what doesn’t.
This morning I crafted a miso soup with chicken drippings left over from Sunday’s dinner. Handfuls of carrots, onions and green cabbage, as well as a bag of swiss chard from the freezer were tossed in. I added generous helpings of herbs to kill off the seasons unwelcome germs and a pinch of my secret ingredient, cayenne pepper. Just before the soup is served I will crush into it three cloves of fresh garlic and think be aware germs, you won’t get anyone in this house now!
So what’s the medicine in the soup, here’s the run down.
Miso is a paste made from soybeans and rice. It is a staple in Japanese cooking. Miso soup is perfect for when a cold or flu steals away the appetite. Containing up to 30% protein, Miso offers the nourishment required to battle viruses while not taxing a sluggish digestive system.
The chicken drippings from Sunday night’s dinner, is more than anything to appease my husband. He is dubious of my vegetarian tendency. However, to be fair, chicken soup is a very old home remedy for colds and flu. The first recorded prescription of chicken soup for flu was in the 12th century. Today, chicken soup is recognized as being able to resolve inflammation associated with sore throats, stuffy sinuses and general aches and pains. When broth is made from the bones, it is rich in minerals. Minerals are essential for all the chemical interactions between cells when fighting off germs.
Next, let’s explore the colourful palate of vegetables. My youngest brother, who turns his nose up at anything pulled up from the ground, has discovered recently that I am right when I pile vegetables onto his plate and tell him they are good for him. Considering himself a man of reason, although I think he is very unreasonable, he requires scientific proof for everything. He has recently discovered the science of micronutrients. He bestows upon me tedious discourses on the importance of mirconutrients, the interactions of enzymes and the health of the body. To which I answer, “Like I said, eat your vegetables.”
The herbs in the soup make it tasty. Tasty food is pleasurable. Pleasure creates happiness. Happiness in life is the best defence against misfortune and illness. Therefore, adding herbs to food makes happiness. But besides that, herbs like thyme (Thymus vulgaris), rosemary (Rosmarius off.), sage (Salvia off.), oregano (Origanum vulgaris) and basil (Ocimum spp.), all have volatile oils that blow up germs. The Chinese, and now me and many others, have for ages added a herb called astragulus (Astragulus membraneous) to soups for its health benefits. Astragulus, best know these days as a cancer herb that speeds the recovery from chemotherapy, is traditionally used in the winter to build white blood cells and ward off flues and colds.
Adding cloves of crushed garlic just before serving creates a soup that bites back. Garlic obliterates unwanted germs. It is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti- parasitic. Garlic’s destructive force is produced by the chemical allicin. When heated, allicin, evapourates into the air. Adding garlic just before serving, guards against this possibility. The killer scent of garlic will get inside, annihilating both germs and love lives.
Lastly, the secret ingredient, cayenne pepper: the logic is simple. When an illness is brought on by cold: warm it up. Nothing is hotter than cayenne.