The smell was intoxicating. It was lunchtime and you could smell the cakes being made. It was sweet. Deliciously sweet. 

There was another smell in the air. It was soup. Not just any soup, but one so unmistakable that it brought back many pleasant memories.

You could smell the chicken being cooked. You could smell the vegetables being used. You could definitely smell the noodles. Sometimes you could smell the matzoh balls too.

This was mom’s chicken noodle soup. It was lunchtime on Sunday and she was busy in the kitchen doing what she loved to do...cook for the family.

I had just come in the door when I heard it.

The tea kettle was whistling. It went from a soft whistle to a loud piercing alarm alerting anyone within earshot that the water was boiling. Moments later, the shrieking tea kettle quieted down.

This was her favorite drink. A nice hot glass of tea with one lump of cubed sugar. Domino’s sugar. No other sugar was good enough.

I had just come in from my bike ride. I was hot. I was sweaty. I was hungry. Those smells coming from the kitchen put a big smile on my face. This was my house. My kitchen. Mom was visiting and enjoying her grandkids for the weekend.

She called the kids ‘kinderlach’. It was a term of endearment. Her main goal as a doting mother and grandmother was to make sure we ate. As if we wouldn’t. It was always a running joke in my household.

I was always amazed when she asked my kids if they wanted more to eat. I was always amazed when she asked if they were hungry. I was always fascinated when she said “You’ll be hungry later if you don’t eat now.”

I don’t think anyone told her that eating is a primal instinct. When our stomach grumbles it automatically tells us to find some food to satisfy our hunger pains. But, being a Jewish mother, that concept was foreign to her.

After showering and changing into a t-shirt and shorts, I came downstairs to have some chicken noodle soup. Mom didn’t use paper plates and cups. That’s not how she was brought up. She didn’t like the modern use of buying thousands of disposable paper plates from Costco to then discard after every meal.

Not her. Instead, she demanded the use of real plates. Real glasses. Real silverware, not that plastic nonsense. The one concession she agreed to was paper napkins instead of fancy cloth napkins.

As I sat down at the kitchen table, she asked if I was ready for some soup. 

“Yes please,” I replied.

She grabbed her large soup ladle made of stainless steel and a wood handle, pulled off the top of the large cooking pot and in one stroke dipped the ladle deep into the pot. She stirred gently twice before pulliing out a heaping serving of what could best be described as the ultimate in Jewish cooking.

She gently poured it into a glass bowl and brought it to the table. The steam from the soup was wafting above and behind her as she delivered the soup twenty feet from the stove to the table.

It smelled delicious. I took my large soup spoon and dipped it in. I knew it was hot without even putting soup to lips. The bowl was hot. The soup was giving off lots of steam. I couldn’t wait to dig in, but I didn’t want to burn my tongue and mouth.

Rather than grab a few ice cubes, I just started stirring. Eventually the temperature would cool down.

I put a little on my spoon and decided to blow on it. The pieces of chicken were tantalizing. The noodles were soft and just waiting to be eaten. It took me a full minute of blowing on the contents of my spoon before I dared to lift it to my mouth.

When I did, the taste was amazing.

I could immediately sense the salt in the soup. I felt the texture of cooked chicken on my lips. The small thin noodles in my mouth were wonderful.

I don’t know what it is about chicken noodle soup that is rejuvenating and healing, but it works every time. One spoonful after another. Digging for more noodles. Finding the small pieces of white meat chicken. Staying away from the soft cooked carrots...they’re not my favorite.

I looked carefully to see if she put in any parsely. I don’t like parsely. I don’t like the way it smells. I don’t like the taste and in my opinion, it ruins the entire soup. Mom remembered. Good for her.

Today there were no matzoh balls. That was fine. Sometimes she put them in and sometimes she didn’t. The interesting thing about matzoh balls is that either they are floaters or sinkers. Only someone who eats matzoh balls would know what this means.

Let me explain if you’ve never eaten matzoh balls in your chicken noodle soup on a regular basis.

Very dense matzoh balls sink in the soup. It’s a fact.

Lighter matzoh balls tend to float. 

It’s a personal preference to which one you like better. Personally, I like floaters. But, keep in mind, they’re harder to cut into smaller pieces with your spoon. Try cutting something that floats. It’s challenging. 

At least when the matzoh ball is at the bottom of the soup bowl you can take your soup spoon and cut it in manageable pieces easily against the bottom of the bowl.

Anyway, enough about matzoh balls, since there were none to eat in today’s soup and that was just fine.

The chicken and the noodles from the soup were so good that I asked for seconds. I got up from the table with my soup bowl and headed over to the stove. As I was reaching for the top of the pot, mom came over and just at that moment my 12 year old son David came over and woke me from my short story and asked if we could go swimming in the bay where we’re staying in St. Maarten.

P.S. Let me know if you're hungry now and what you thought of each of your senses as you read this.

Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer
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Muna Odetalla 03/13/2015 06:08 PM
What? No MSG? Gerry, you are just too much. Never had a Matzo ball in my life. Now I'm curious. I think I'd like the floaters too, if only they came in spoon size.
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