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Fighting Fear with Chicken Soup

On Wednesday evening my family will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. More specifically, nineteen people will sit down at our table about 45 hours from the time I started drafting this post, and another nineteen people the night after that. Along with the holiday formalities, they will expect an excellent dinner.

And somehow or other an excellent dinner is what they will get, even though right this minute I’m not sure how I’ll manage the baking, the cooking, the cleanup, the first day of school, the longstanding conference call, the emails I absolutely must return, the emails I really would like to return, the projects, the social media followup – all the things that make up my normal routine plus the extra effort that comes this time of year.

And then there’s the soup! I’ve always been afraid to make chicken soup, 100% from scratch, not a bouillon cube or can of consommé anywhere in sight. Chicken soup, pie crust, bread, souffle – the expectations always seemed too high, the risks too great.

It’s ridiculous, I know, but you can’t always predict which things will seem daunting. After all, so long as you’re not in serious danger of starvation, how bad could the results be? If a kitchen experiment doesn’t work, you laugh, chalk it up to experience, toss the evidence, and go out for pizza. I don’t think of myself as a generally fearful person. But somehow the hesitation has persisted.

The funny thing is that on one level, soup is just another first-time project. I researched (in multiple cookbooks); compared and contrasted (pounds of chicken, quarts of water, servings; which vegetables; what process details); made lists and charts (ingredients, timing). I overbought, which is what I always do on a first-time project, whether it’s office supplies, or professional services, or chicken parts. I took notes to remember for next time. I learned a lot.

And oh, the soup! Golden and tempting as it bubbled, its aroma filled the kitchen with a remarkable sense of well-being despite all the other pressures. We picked and nibbled at the chicken bits. We gasped at the richness of the carrots.

Yes, there were extra pots that needed washing. Yes, I have to do another batch tomorrow because the amount I need on hand (19 people x two nights of holiday celebration x 1.3 servings each, plus leftovers) didn’t fit in my pots. Yes, I’ll have to pick up the pace, triage my activities, maybe not get everything done or done perfectly. But oh, that soup!

I hope my guests are happy (now we’re down to only 30+ hours) and enjoy the soup.

I’m happy and enjoying the fact that I’ve broken through a silly, self-imposed hurdle. That’s pretty rich and golden, too.

If we could only treat the things we’re afraid of the way we treat the things we do well, we could accomplish more and fear less. We tend to forget that doing things well takes practice and experimentation, and that a first attempt may be a success or may be a failure, but is certainly worth a risk.

May the new year be as golden, as validating, as rewarding as a bowl of delicious soup (with my mother’s matzah balls, of course. Maybe I’ll try making those next year.)

Onward and upward,


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2 thoughts on “Fighting Fear with Chicken Soup

  1. The reviews are in! Liz, I am glad you conquered your fear, because the chicken soup was delicious and enjoyed by all! (And Mom, the matzah balls were good too).

  2. I am continually inspired at the level of commitment, devotion and integrity that you approach – literally – every area of your life. Using your hard-earned wisdom to overcome your fears, even when it comes to chicken soup, is a great example for us all. Here’s to a very special Rosh Hashanah! Terri

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