Don’t quote me but I think flu season is just about over. It better be. The cold remedy bottle is empty and just a few Tylenol remain. 21st century over-the-counter medicines abound and are cheaper than a good pot of chicken noodle soup. There’s an irony to that.
In the early 1800s, home remedies were the vogue. They had to be-that’s all there was. For the most part, they involved food, lovingly prepared by Mom or Grandma and served on a little tray. The patient rested on pillows and away from drafts. Because life was lived at a slower pace, sick people could afford a day or two of rest. The sickroom foods included soup, custards, toast and tea. Those foods slowed down the body so it could gather strength from the rest.
Not so today. OTC concoctions are full of chemicals, residual alcohols and sugars that gear up the body’s systems and senses to keep walking, talking and working. No wonder we’re a tired generation.
However, back in the later 1800s, there was a line of cure-alls that went beyond the kitchen. Swamp Root and Lightning Hot Drops promised about the same thing as Foley’s Kidney Cure and Dr. William’s Pink Pills for Pale People. (I did not make those up!) In the local paper from 1894 to 1930 there were no less than 22 elixirs, syrups and pills advertised to cure what ailed you. Virtually all of them included alcohol.
Hollister’s Rocky Mountain Tea Nuggets competed with Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound and Thedford’s Black Draught. If you felt puny there was Iron-Ox Tablets, and Mull’s Grape Tonic, Celery King and Wine of Cardul. Children were dosed with Dr. Caldwell’s Syrup Pepsin or Cascarets Candy Cathartic. The most famous Ohio concoction was produced just outside of Medway by the Hartman Brothers. Their Peruna was advertised as a tonic and catarrh remedy. Later they moved to Columbus, Ohio, and became quite wealthy. Patients at their sanitarium received rest, Peruna and a menu including chicken noodle soup.
Today, enjoy a pot of chicken noodle soup. It will be good for ails you. The following recipe is from a 1941 US Government issued farmer’s bulletin. Some advice started with, “Old birds need long, slow cooking in water or steam…necks, wings and feet are good for flavor.”
Chicken Noodle Soup 1941-style
Salt and pepper
Celery, carrots, peas, onion
Noodles, homemade or packaged
Clean chicken, washing in cold water. Place in large kettle and cover with water. Add salt and pepper. Bring to boil, then simmer until meat falls off bones. Remove meat and bones. Strain broth and return it to kettle. Add as much of the vegetables as desired. Continue to cook until they are tender.
Cool meat. Remove all bone, skin and gristle. Add a couple of handfuls of noodles to broth. Cook until tender. Add back the meat cut into chunks. Soup may be thickened with cream but do not boil or with creamed corn for extra flavor and nutrition.
Modern Chicken Noodle Soup
6 cups chicken broth, canned or fresh
1 cup each sliced carrots, celery
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken
2 handfuls noodles, more or less
Salt, pepper, parsley, garlic
Bring broth to boil. Add vegetables and simmer until tender. Add noodles and cook till tender. Add meat and seasonings. Can be thickened with creamed corn.
Photo by Fotolia/yukata