My good friend Lashon is one of those people who you can’t help but like. She has a big, bright smile that lights up a room and even bigger laugh…and it doesn’t hurt that she is doing some amazing things with her life. She recently published her first children’s book, the New Orleans-themed Mr. Okra Sells Fruits and Vegetables. Since then, she has been traveling around promoting the book, singing songs with children at readings and–something that’s near to her heart–teaching people to love eating fruits and vegetables. On top of that, she has an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence, an MA in Folklore from UC Berkeley, and is currently working on her PhD from UC Berkeley in Performance Studies. Whew! Just reading her resume makes me tired.
I recently appeared on her new podcast (yes, she also has a podcast), Stories&Slams, to talk about genealogy, and I asked her to return the favor by giving me a family recipe that I could share on my blog. I was so happy when she immediately agreed, saying, “Yes, my mom’s chicken soup… yes.” It’s always the kind of reaction I’m hoping to get, because she had something so clearly in her mind. It was also a little surprising to me, because Lashon is a vegan. So why chicken soup?
Lashon told me that her late mother’s chicken soup recipe had been everything to her as a child. Whenever her or any of her four siblings would get sick, her mother would make her chicken soup. In fact, she was very sure it could cure everything. In elementary school, when the students were asked to bring in a family recipe, Lashon brought in the chicken soup recipe, positive that it could help everyone.
This is six-year-old Lashon’s version of her mother’ chicken soup.
Lashon remembers that the first time she ever had the chicken soup was at her great-aunt’s house. It had chicken feet swimming in the broth. And rightly so—the recipe had hailed from Manchester, Jamaica, where Lashon’s family owned a small farm and local grocery store.
Beginning in the 1960s, Lashon’s family began to immigrate and settle in South Florida, where a majority of her family still lives today.
Then in 2013, Lashon lost her mother to colon cancer. I asked Lashon if she remembered the last time her mother made the recipe. It was when she became her mother’s caregiver during her mother’s last stage of life. She remembers her mother making the soup, but she declined to eat it with her.
She regrets that she didn’t enjoy a bowl of it alongside her mother. She didn’t know that that would be the last time.
Lashon loves her mother’s chicken soup, and although she hasn’t made it in many years, she does hope to make the soup again someday, likely for a very special occasion or a family gathering. But for now, she relishes in the memory of the scent of her mother’s chicken soup.
I followed the recipe written in her six-year-old hand fairly closely.
Lashon’s Mother’s Chicken Soup
3 cups water
1 lb. boneless chicken, cubed
1 cup of carrot, peeled and sliced
1 cup of turnip, peeled and sliced
1 cup of potato, peeled and sliced
1 tsp butter
1 package of Lipton’s dried chicken noodle soup
Salt, to taste
Bring water to a boil in a large pan.
Salt the water and add in the chicken. Then add in the sliced vegetables. Cook for 45 minutes.
Then add one tsp butter, as well as a package of Lipton’s dried chicken noodle soup. Allow to simmer for five more minutes.
Salt to taste before serving.
Lashon, thank you so much for telling your story and sharing your family recipe!