A couple of weeks back, I babysat my friend’s kids. This request comes up from time to time and when it does, I’m quick to accept because, well, her daughters are two lovely little people that I like spending time with.

I mean, would you say “no” to these magnificent creatures?

That said, if you have kids, or know people who do, you are well-aware that children between the ages of two and five spend most of their waking hours at school or daycare sticking their fingers in other kids’ mouths, thus becoming spectacularly efficient germ incubators. The night I came over to babysit, the sick one (who will remain nameless) happened to sneeze in my face – not on my cheek, or my forehead. No. Instead, directly into my mouth. There was something rather unsettling about the perfect timing between that sneeze and that yawn. Something vaguely Darwinian and cruel. The germ incubator, for her part, thought it was quite hilarious.

That, dear friends, marked the beginning of a fourteen-day chest cold. And by the fourteenth day, everything began to feel dramatic: having to replace a burnt-out light bulb on the ceiling fixture. Taking public transit. Taking out the trash.

Expletives abounded.

To curb any further cold-induced swearing, I took on the standard routine of sleeping, drinking tea, gargling salt water, and consuming vast quantities of soup – ones made with heady, home-made chicken broth. More specifically, mom’s chicken broth – a simple elixir of chicken, root vegetables and herbs that simmers slowly on the stove top. It’s your reward for making your way through an entire box of tissues.

Next time you feel like the contents of a trash bag, make this broth (or even better, ask someone to make it for you), pour some in a bowl and sip it slowly – no spoon required.

Cold-curmudgeon pacified, guaranteed.

Mom’s Chicken Broth – makes about 2 litres

  • one whole chicken (organic, if possible)
  • 1 onion, halved (if you want a darker broth, keep the peel on)
  • 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stalk (leaves on, if possible), roughly chopped
  • a few springs of fresh thyme
  • a few springs of fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt
  • cheesecloth
  • kitchen twine

(*I add one whole garlic clove, smashed – but don’t tell mom)

Place chicken in a large Dutch oven (i.e. a heavy-bottomed, two handle soup pot) and cover with cold water. Set the pot on medium-high heat.

While the water heats up, prepare the onion, garlic, carrot and celery; set aside. Make a bouquet garni by filling a piece of cheesecloth with the thyme, parsley and bay leaf and tying it with a piece of twine.

Bring water to a boil and periodically skim off the frothy bits with a wooden or slotted spoon – this will ensure that you get a clear broth.

When the frothing has subsided, reduce heat to medium-low, add some salt, the vegetables and the bouquet garni. Simmer for about 1 – 1½ hours, (the cooking time will obviously vary depending on the size of your chicken) until chicken is cooked. Remove it from the pot and reserve. Strain the broth into a large bowl through a fine sieve (or a fine sieve with some cheesecloth). If you choose, you can reserve the vegetables for another use.