SATURDAY I MAKE CHICKEN SOUP

Saturday, I make chicken soup. Saturday afternoon. to be precise, when we’ve eaten half the chicken. It’s always Saturday, because that’s market day, the only day we can buy, roasted on a spit, a chicken that previously had known a genuine poultry existence: real food to peck on, a daily stroll around the grounds. Air. You know: a life.  I’m not the one who buys this chicken, just the one to make the soup.  The one from New York. The mid-westerner is the one to sally forth in the misty Norman morning. When he gets back  we have the breasts and wings for lunch with maybe some potato salad and greens. Then, sometime between lunch and dusk, I strip the carcass and throw all but the legs in a pot with water. Carrots. Celery. A clove-nailed oignon. Maybe some white wine.  The rest I’m not telling.

I have long made chicken soups. I am not only a New Yorker, I am from the Bronx, where despite the fact that recipes for fowl-based broth long predate Columbus, a remarkably high percentage of the natives will tell you that it was here that chicken soup was invented. Mostly, in my other incarnations, I  made chicken soup with a whole and previously uncooked chicken,  which is the most authentic shtetl method, I’m told. But now, even in making my goyesha chicken soup, I still feel like Simon Schamma : at the drop of a kippa I would launch into such a spiel about cultcha, all the while dumping in the bones and cutting leeks. You wouldn’t believe how I could just go on about Markus Yakovlevich Rotkovich becoming Mark Rothko, and what a mensch (read: anti-capitalist) he was. Hebrew school. Violin and mandolin. A real khokhem.  I love Mark Rothko, who made the finest paintings of the New York subway (The IND?) ever. That was before he started on the colours in boxes. No, I’m not making fun. They are some of the greatest works ever painted. And if you look really carefully – I mean study them – you will perhaps understand why he committed suicide in his bathroom in 1970.  Exstasy. Anguish. Desire. Terror. (Schamma’s deconstruction of basic existentialism.) To this day, I cannot make chicken soup without hearing Schamma enjoying himself as he paints the portrait : super-educated, ungainly, sentimental: you know the type. Jewish? Me? No, in fact I was thinking of putting a title on this, calling it Confessions of a Shabbes Goy…

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