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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

Jewish Penicillin


When we were little, Mom would make us a crazy concoction of mashed bananas, sugar and milk to make us feel better. It didn’t matter what we were sick with—fever, cold, cough, upset stomach—that weird remedy always worked.

That’s about the one thing I haven’t tried to throw off this sinusitis. I’ve been drinking Echinacea tea, eating tons of oranges, and taking antibiotics. Even if I was up to visiting my parents this week, it would be pointless because they’re both sick, too. Mom actually fainted on Sunday. After being in bed all weekend, she and my dad walked to town to hear a lecture. As she stood up to get some water, the color drained from her face, her eyes rolled up into her head, and she fell onto Daddy. Their friends helped by giving her water and calling an ambulance, but it took a few minutes until she came around again. By the time the ambulance arrived, she was fine. The medics checked her vital signs, and her glucose levels. They opted not to go to the hospital, making their way home instead.

I know that feeling of panic, that helplessness in the face of trauma, that sense that your world is about to shift and change forever. I felt it when my daughter broke three toes all at once; when the doctors set my son’s broken finger; when my husband fainted from kidney stone pain. Mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis was the opposite experience. We knew it was coming; we’d been pushing for it for almost a year. It was a slow sinking into depression when the doctors finally gave us the definitive news.

Thankfully, this time, the panic didn’t last too long. My guess is that the fainting episode was precipitated by the recent tumultuous weather here in Israel. Yesterday is was 24° Celsius. Today it’s 14°.

I’ve also been eating a lot of “Jewish penicillin.” There’s no cure for colds, but if you’re sick, chicken soup can make you feel better.

In her day, Mom was a terrific cook. I remember vividly her roast potatoes, sweet lokshen kugel, chicken and pineapples, braised beef, salmon with dill sauce. She produced wonderful meals for us, and for a parade of dinner guests. For a while, my parents were part of their synagogue’s gourmet food club.

If you want to get to the essence of my mom, though, you have to taste her chicken soup. A light golden broth with large pieces of carrot, parsnip, fresh dill and parsley, chunks of chicken, soft bite-sized potatoes. I savor this recipe. I’m not going to print it here, though, because I’m saving it for publication in my cookbook, whenever that may be.

Meanwhile, Purim is almost here. If all goes well, and they are feeling better, Mom and Daddy will join us for our Purim meal. I’ll get to see them after all!

It’s hard to think about sweet hamantaschen when you’re sick. My husband Jeff made plenty of chicken soup this Shabbat so that I could nurse my way back to health during the week. Here’s his recipe for a tangy, vegetable-filled, deep colored chicken soup.

Jeff’s Chicken Soup

We love soups—lentil, pea, barley, corn. But the best, most nourishing soup of all is this version of chicken soup. Made with all fresh ingredients, and a pinch of love, it is the highlight of our Shabbat.

3-4 chicken necks and backs or wings

8 cups water

3 onions chopped

2 carrots sliced

2 stalks celery chopped (with leaves)

2 cups pumpkin chopped

1 squash chopped

1 large sweet potato chopped

3-5 garlic cloves minced

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp parsley

3 bay leaves

2 tsp basil

2 tsp oregano

1 tsp ginger (powder)

Salt and pepper to taste


In a large pot, boil chicken in half of the water. When chicken is cooked, remove to cool in a small bowl. Skim the top of the water to remove any fats. Add vegetables, and spices, salt and pepper. Add remaining water. Bring to a boil then simmer for 7 hours (minimum of 3), stirring occasionally. Debone cooled chicken and return to the pot while it is simmering. Serve piping hot.

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