Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sympathy for the Devil before Chicken Soup for the Soul

"A Chicken Soup for the Soul story is an inspirational, true story about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It is a story that opens the heart and rekindles the spirit."
This is not a "Chicken Soup for the Soul" story. It's far, far better than that. It's a chicken soup story. I'll resist the temptation to tell you to duck yourself, but only just.

Chicken (not in soup)

I woke up yesterday with a cold and a throat infection, which made swallowing painful and me grumpy. Not surprisingly, I've had a craving for chicken soup as something both nourishing and easy to imbibe, and so went looking for a simple recipe. Early in my search, I found Chicken Soup for the Soul, from whence the above quote derives.

I know it's easy to be dismissive of self-help books and websites, but there's a reason for that - they're shit. Wide-eyed, sing-song nonsense spouted by the gormless to a mouth-breathing audience of the unfulfilled does not, in my eyes, justify the extra distance I have to walk in my favourite bookshop to get to the proper books, you know, the ones about food, war, ethics and architecture. I've never quite understood the sheer arrogance of writing down a bunch of homilies and expecting people to be grateful, or in the case of a book of this rubbish, pay. Worse are the ones that go beyond the simple "I changed my life by not being sad and adopting a sunny disposish," and suggest that we can wish the universe to be a better place, often making reference to quantum physics, as though talking about science is the same as understanding it (spoiler alert: it's not).

The funny thing is there is some actual, factual, real-life science that suggests that chicken soup may be good for you when you're poorly, although to be completely honest it's only in dribs and drabs. There aren't any major studies or meta-analysis and nothing at the Cochrane Collaboration, which for those unfamiliar with it, or who think it's an R&B band, is pretty much the bee's knees when it comes to medical evidence.

Chicken (about to be soup)

So I made some chicken soup. I stuffed some carcasses (politely called "chicken frames") into a pot with a couple of sliced carrots, a leek, a handful of parsley and some celery and a few dried mushrooms, before simmering for three hours to make stock.

Chicken (becoming soup)

Half the stock was frozen for later use (risotto, probably) and the rest had some chicken thighs (and their bones) added, along with some more carrots, leeks, potato and parsley. After some lengthy period the bones were removed and the meat shredded. Some modest noodles added and cooked and the soup was completed and perfected. Sticky with natural gelatin and calming with organic... ummm.. organisms.

This is a "Beggars Banquet" kind of soup. Like 1968 for the Rolling Stones, it was a turning point in my illness; a pivot around which my fortunes revolved. There was "before soup", differentiating the early formulaic blues soup from the "after soup", which was up-beat, more focussed and without Brian Jones, although to be fair, Brian wasn't there for "before soup" either. Like Beggar's Banquet, this was also a little bit country 'n' western, but not in an insulting way.

Most importantly, although I wasn't enlightened after eating the soup, I did feel better. Not in an uplifting, spiritual, optimistic kind of way; but more in a "at-least-my-throat-doesn't-hurt-as-much" kind of way. And that's what matters.

Because there is no Answer; there is no Secret and there is barely any Fucking Point*, other than the one we make for ourselves, and that, dear readers, is the only one that matters. Except for soup.

Oh crap, now I'm spouting off unfalsifiable rubbish... Maybe that's why they do it - it's so easy.

*My book based on this title out soon.


  1. Do you have any leftovers?

    *hopeful look*

  2. Yes! But am 5 minutes away from feeding BtD... Better get here soon!