Chicken soup in Hamburg
Are all canned chicken soups created equal?
That was my question as I pried open a can of “Meine Hühner Bouillon” at 9:00 a.m. at our guesthouse in Hamburg.
I’m not a huge canned soup fan; who is? There’s nothing glamorous about plopping a dented aluminum can of concentrated meat and vegetables into a saucepan and heating it, stirring occasionally as the puddles of oil concentrate on the top, reflecting the kitchen lights in all sorts of psychedelic patterns. Then you eat it and grimace through more salt than was used to preserve the rations on all of Captain Cook’s voyages.
But then there is a cachet to the canned soup, no? Andy Warhol didn’t make great pyramids out of fresh soup from mother’s kitchen. It represents an age when love of convenience and ignorance of nutrition intersected, to produce an adequate, if not yummy, lunch in five minutes. What North American hasn’t once pined for a tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich meal on a rainy day? Hell, you don’t even need to have ever eaten it before–the image has been ingrained in us enough by culture.
And of course, chicken soup keeps you warm and comfortable: that’s why you can commission a series of books called “Chicken Soup for the ____ Soul” and walk off with so many billions, you won’t ever need to eat canned soup again.
Chicken soup the world over is also meant to be a cure for illness. My own people call it “Jewish penicillin.”
By the time our train pulled into Hamburg, I felt decidedly unwell. By nightfall, I realized I was in the middle of a seriously unpleasant bout of flu: sour stomach, headaches, fever, alternating sweats and chills, and muscle pain throughout my body. Beatles-platz, St. Michael’s Cathedral, and St. Pauli were going to have to wait for this break-bone nastiness to pass.
My wife picked up a can of what we both felt looked like chicken soup at the grocery store. By the time we heated it for the next day’s breakfast, all the signs indicated it was. There was a chicken broth, cut carrots, little chunks of chicken, and big balls of what look like some lame goyish excuse for matzo balls, but I think were a chicken by-product, processed from the feet, bones, and beak of the poor, feathered beast.
It didn’t cure anything, but it was ingestible and digestible in my weakened state. At the end of it, as my wife did the dishes—usually my job, like the shopping—she remarked, “I think Big Pharma is suppressing the cure for Man Flu, to try and keep women serving whiny men.”
Photo by: Jo Turner