It would be just my luck that while on a three-week break from my full time culinary program, I would run into an extensive bout with bacterial pneumonia.
No fun. However a few good ideas came to me while I lay hooked up to IVs in the hospital feeling weak and miserable:
• I would like to start eating as healthy as possible. Not a diet, per say, but the good ol’ well balanced nutritional meals we learned about in elementary health class.
• Soup. All I want is soup — homemade, full of seasonings, and abundant in flavor. Its times like these that no matter how old you get you just want your mommy. Well, my Mom is in New Jersey so I knew I wouldn’t be getting the spoiled, nurturing attention I desperately craved.
• I should call my Mom. (This is always a good idea whether sick or not.)
My Mom, perhaps my biggest “Foodie Fan” was excited to hop online and search her favorite sites for info that would help with my newest personal assignment — “Miracle/Get Better/ Feel Better Soup.”
Okay, so I am still toying around with the title. Now, however, I had a goal. I had something to pour my energy into. I had, as silly as it may be, an inspiration. This encouraged me to be active. To want to get out of bed; to leave the hospital, and to get to work on my newest project.
It was important for me to first learn some of the healthiest ingredients for our bodies and immune systems so with a quick Google search I was able to find a list that incorporated: avocados, cucumbers, shitake mushrooms, kale, brown rice, millet, black beans,many
different seasonings (score!), and, one of my favorites, lamb.
Give or take a few things I feel like this could be the start of my new “Feel Awesome Soup,” or whatever I end up calling it.
The only goal for the dish was for it to be tasty, and kick sickness right in the throat. There is no origin based theme, or seasonal theme. Just a slew of awesome ingredients to offer up as a protective force field to friends and family that may get sick in the future.
I got to work. My kitchen soon turned into a science lab and I became enveloped by my work. First I marinated the lamb in a mint and lemon paste for a couple hours. I really wanted the flavors to come through in order to sort of soothe the throat.
Next I seared it and set it aside to be worked with later. I then cooked down the shitake caps in a soy sauce and fresh squeezed orange juice concoction I toyed with. Strained them and added them in a soup pot with chicken stock, thyme, mince garlic, and a little dill.
I cut the lamb up in small cubes and added it to the stock.
Everything was coming together and the smell that took over my kitchen was already putting me in a better mood. I was excited to test out all my hard work on my own immune system. I added in the brown rice and par cooked black beans. Then I let everything simmer together for about an hour.
I refreshed the seasoning with salt and pepper as I felt necessary and patiently waited for just the right time to try my soup. As the soup simmered I thought, “Why stop there?” And quickly made an avocado, cucumber, onion and mango “salsa” as a sort of cleanser for the hearty soup. Fresh squeezed lime juice, a little cilantro, some mint, and 30 minutes in the fridge made the salsa as refreshing and crisp as one could hope for.
I sat down to try my nameless soup; my mouth watered in anticipation. Needless to say, this isn’t anything you will buy from a can. Dare I say? It is even better than chicken noodle soup. Yup, this is my secret antidote and I am happy to share it with the public.
It may not be for everyone, but your immune system will thank you.
Chelsey Parker left Burlington County, NJ at the age of 19 to travel around Europe with the Air Force as an active duty enlisted member. She fell in love with many different cuisines and cooking styles during her two year stay. Now 24, she is attending The Art Institutes International of Kansas City’s Culinary Program and cooking for Milbourn’s Food and Drink Co. in Platte County.