I knew I would be spending this afternoon with a dear friend, Laura, the girl I sat next to as we graduated from Duke in 1985. She’s in considerable anguish having lost her love to cancer, her soul, the man whose heart she carries in her heart, to use E.E. Cumming’s famous words. Harry, a lovely, brilliant, funny and delightful man, gone at 58. There are no words adequate to offer, only one’s presence. And soup.

I roasted a chicken last night, ate some for dinner with mashed potatoes and broccoli, but saved most of it, and all the bones, to carry on the subway along with 4 carrots, 2 onions, celery, three tomatoes a bay leaf, to the upper east side.

I set to work immediately, getting the bones boiling (I didn’t have much time, so with a rolling boil more flavor comes out faster and fat is emulsified into the stock enriching it, fine for a simple soup). After a 20 minutes in went the chopped vegetables. I cut remaining onion, celery and carrot, as well as the chicken pulled from the bones, as garnish for the finished soup.

Laura and I talked. She busied herself with plans for Monday’s service, adding paper to the guest registry book, things like that. Every now and then she’d break into heaving sobs, which is par for the course after such a recent loss of someone you feel completed you. But the kitchen soon filled with the smell of roasted chicken and sautéing onions. And we talked lightly of other things as well as Harry, her kids, my kids, my upcoming wedding. She read me her eulogy. More tears. But also there was the need to check the stock for seasoning, stir the sautéeing onions. Such comfort in those smells, and simple diverting acts.

I strained the stock after about an hour of cooking into the pot of cooked onion, carrot, and celery. Added the chicken and cooked pasta, set the burner to return it to a simmer.

In her bedroom, Laura has created a small shrine to Harry, with meaningful items, one of which was a framed poem, the ee cummings poem that begins: “I carry your hear with me (I carry it in my heart).” Where ever he goes she goes. It was a poem my beloved first read to me, but she was on her way into the city. Laura is left alone to carry his heart in hers.

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart.

I found Laura in the kitchen and held her and wept for her and with her. Then we opened a bottle of wine, and I ladled chicken soup, golden with fat, into two small bowls and we ate and we talked easily.

I carry your heart (I carry your heart in my heart)

 

Chicken Soup for Laura

  • 1 roasted chicken carcass, plus the breast and leg meat from half of it cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 large onion, rough chopped
  • 2 large carrots, rough chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, rough chopped
  • 3 Roma tomatoes or 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, medium dice
  • 2 medium carrots cut into discs
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked pasta
  1. In a big pot, cover the carcass with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a medium boil. After 20 minutes add the large onion, carrots, tomato and bay. give it a four-finger hit of salt. Continue to boil for 40 more minutes or so.
  2. In a large sauce pan over medium heat, add the oil, then the medium onion, carrot and sliced celery. Sauté until tender. Remove from the heat. Add the chicken and a few handfuls of pasta.
  3. Strain the stock into the sauce pan, bring to a simmer. Serve.

 

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15 Wonderful responses to “I Carry Your Heart:
Chicken Soup For a Friend”

  • Renee

    I lost my husband and my heart to cancer in 2015, he was 54. It came out of nowhere and he was gone in 5 months. I came to realize that the friends who surrounded me with kindnesses like yours are my people. It’s not a small thing.

    Btw, congrats on your upcoming nuptials. I love seeing mid-life happy. I’m finding mine again.

    Renee

  • Abra Bennett

    Thank you for writing this, Michael. Yesterday was the third anniversary of my husband’s death, and I wish someone had been here to make soup for me. I accept a bowl of yours, virtually, with gratitude.

  • Melissa

    The week after my sister’s love of ten years died very suddenly at 56 she just couldn’t manage food. I spent all weekend making half a dozen kinds of freezeable soup, put them in small freezer bags and took them to her.

  • Jessica Hampton

    Thank you for sharing. It’s easier to be strong when you have a great chicken soup. 💜

  • sahil jangid

    OOhhh, Thanks to Michael for sharing this recipe post. It’s looking amazing in the picture and I definitely make it at my home. I read whole the article with recipe carefully and preparing to make it.

    I,m food lover and loves to eat & make food. According to me, it’s a food hub website and you are my chef teacher.

    waiting for your next post.

  • Armymum

    Wow….. sometimes all you need is someone to just “be” (& some chicken soup)… Recently lost (a VERY young) former co-worker, and just this morning one of my husband’s former co-workers and another of his former co-worker’s son’s who we met at a cookout last summer. Looks like I have been out of the loop too…. So sorry to hear about you and Donna. Still making your Dutch Oven Bread (just made some last weekend with the snowstorm) and still love coming here for the stories and things I learn. I must admit like Elise’s comment, there are definitely video channels I follow (a favorite is a gentleman in Serbia that does open fire cooking in the woods, no language needed) but I also find most of them are hype, flash & not a whole lot of substance. Would love to see some more videos from you! Best of luck…

  • Tim Abel

    Hello Michael,

    I’m sorry to hear about your friend Laura’ loss.

    As usual though, I really enjoyed your writing.

    Michael, you sound like a very sensitive and caring friend – she’s lucky to know you in her life. I’m glad that you could be there for her.

    Yes, there is often nothing that any of us can actually do for someone other than to just listen and to just be present with them …I’m sure she won’t forget it.

    When my mother died, I got a text from my husband saying that our neighbor, Nancy, had just dropped off a “lot” of food.

    Nancy is older than us and she is very “old school” so one of the very first things that she thought about was of bringing food over.

    You just don’t experience things like that today. It was definitely a first for me.

    When I talked with Nancy, she said, well I thought you might have a lot of people to feed. I laughed and said…actually no.. we planned to bring food in for the “post funeral” gathering…. your gift was so good though.. that I’m glad that we didn’t have to share it with anybody! 🙂

    I have subsequently told EVERYONE about it .. it’s been 8 years and I’m still sharing that story … I’m sure after Nancy is long dead, I’ll still be talking about it.

    So Michael, I can assure you that Laura won’t forget your generosity and your presence in her life.

    and…. you chatted about your kids… her kids and your upcoming wedding… thought you’d just slip that one in huh … 😉

    Congratulations!

    Don’t look back!

    Best wishes!

  • Mary Donovan

    Michael-So lovely and real. Heartache, soup, and the glorious comfort of a friend who knows that life is not linear. Many blessings on you for being such a kind human being, and deepest sympathy to Laura.

  • Trish

    My mom’s funeral was 5 years ago on the 6th. I’ve been feeling pretty empty for a couple of weeks. Thank you for sharing – with Laura and with us. May she and her family be enveloped by love and peace, now and always.

  • Allen

    I’ve started roasting my chicken over bread slices, it makes the best croutons. All the celebrity chefs use them in Caesar salads, I like to get them extra crispy and add one or two in a vegetable soup. So simple, and that little addition makes such a big difference, like a delicious chicken soup.

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