chicken soup for summer colds
no, it's not a Home Movie
Hello! You may notice this is NOT a Home Movies newsletter. Starting this week, we are scaling back to an every-other-week, a.k.a. bi-weekly, a.k.a. twice a month release schedule. This is mostly because, to be frank, we are burnt out and one recipe a week is a lot! Too many, perhaps!
But also, I have a book due this year and, well, books simply do not write themselves.
Thank you, as always, for your support, your enthusiasm, your time, and your attention. We here at Home Movies are so thrilled to get to be making these lil home movies for you and can’t wait to make more (and we are making more!).
If you’re here for the chicken soup, scroll down. If you’re here for the vulnerability, read on!
Last June, I started this newsletter as a way to get my recipes out into the world while I waited to go back to my job. Yada yada yada, and…this became my job! This newsletter. A Newsletter! Eventually, I took the newsletter and turned them into videos. We called those videos Home Movies. What a beautiful thing, to be able to work for yourself, to write how you feel and what you feel, to cook what you want and how you want. It has never ever escaped me how wonderful that is, and I am grateful every single day that it gets to be my job.
But as anyone who “Creates Content” (which, I guess is now just how we refer to any work that lives on the internet? Sorry, I hate it!), you also get to know the ins and outs of The Algorithm. The Comments Section. Occasionally, The Tweets and The Articles, even though I try not to read those 🥴. You realize you’re working for yourself, but not really, because there’s also all of the above.
If you don’t post with the right frequency, you cease to exist and swirl into the abyss of the internet, for you have starved The Algorithm and it has gone elsewhere to feed. If you write too personally, someone will complain that “the ratio of Alison Roman to recipes is off” in your newsletter even though, well, it is your newsletter. If you include recipes from your cookbooks in your videos, people complain there’s no “new content,” even though YouTube is free. If you try to make a new recipe each week, you burn yourself out and fail to make things you’re truly proud of. If you put out two newsletters a week to provide value, people unsubscribe because there are “too many emails.” If you scale back to once a week to avoid clogging the inbox, people unsubscribe because there “isn’t enough content.” Etc, etc, etc, forevermore.
This isn’t meant to sound whiny, just a glimpse into the real-time processing as I, a person who lives to please people, tries to please every person. But not just people, algorithms! Who don’t even have personal traumas which excuse some of their shitty behavior! But guess what: You simply can not! Some people have figured this out much earlier in life.
Anyway, I love working. I love writing, I love making videos, I love cooking. But I think last year, I tried to bounce back so quickly that I didn’t really give myself time to ask myself what I was bouncing back for. Doing The Most as a way to prove (to myself, mostly) how “okay” I was has very much started to catch top with me. Maybe you feel the same way?
*Extreme Carrie Bradshaw voice* Powering through the pandemic has been a huge coping mechanism for many, and just like my phone at all times, it feels like our collective batteries are hovering around 2%.
I am the biggest advocate of “it’s okay to not be okay,” but I never really felt like it was publicly okay to say: “I’m not that okay!” Holding myself to a different standard than anyone else: Classic Virgo behavior! What a curse.
Anyway, while I feel like I have lost my way a little, the thing that I know I still do want to do (and hope to be doing): Cook. Write. Perhaps more specifically, write with honesty and purpose, write recipes that people like because they taste great, look nice and work with a wide variety of kitchens and ingredients. Scaling back one of the 93 things I’m trying to do right now is my way of hopefully making everything else that much better. It’s 2021, less is more!
So, did you want a recipe for that chicken soup? Ennui optional but recommended! Just kidding, I don’t recommend the ennui.
CHICKEN SOUP FOR SUMMER COLDS
This soup started because what I was really needing was a giant bowl of broth. I gently simmered a whole chicken in a large pot of lightly salted water with onions, a few rogue carrots, and about a half bunch of celery for 2-ish hours until the chicken was effectively braised and the water had turned to stock. If you don’t have the desire to go that route, you can use boxed/store-bought chicken (or vegetable broth) and leftover chicken/picked rotisserie (or cut-up tofu).
I gave the alternative to use tomatoes since tomatillos aren’t quite “everywhere” yet, but they are in many stores. Some general grocery stores keep them next to “specialty produce” like ginger, mushrooms, and small chilies. That said, I do strongly suggest doing the version with tomatillos. Their acidity is unrivaled, and the pectin content (the stuff that makes jam jammy) really thickens the soup in an excellent, extremely satisfying way. If you *are* using tomatoes, be sure to adjust the acidity with a splash of vinegar, lemon or lime juice.
As for the herbs, this might be the one and only time I’m recommending basil above any other herb. So basil lovers, please and truly do: go wild. Tis’ the damn season.
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 medium leek, the whole thing thinly sliced
1 1/2-2 pounds tomatillos (or tomatoes), husks removed, quartered or chopped
1 large bunch kale or swiss chard, stems removed and leaves torn into bite-sized pieces (about 6 cups)
6–8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups picked chicken meat or tofu, cut into bite-sized pieces
2-3 cups basil, cilantro and/or parsley, torn
Crushed red pepper flakes or hot sauce (optional)
1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Set a little bit of the white part of the leek aside to top your soup later and add the remaining leek and all of the garlic to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the leek and garlic are totally softened and starting to get a little color, 8–10 minutes.
2. Add tomatillos (or tomatoes) and season again with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until tomatillos (or tomatoes) are totally falling apart, almost turning to a jam-like texture. Add leafy greens and season again with salt and pepper. Cook them just till wilted, a few minutes.
3. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Taste every now and then for seasoning and simmer until the broth is tangy, a little salty, and very delicious (season with vinegar, lemon or lime juice if using tomatoes). If you can’t taste anything because you have a cold, this will take about 10–15 minutes of simmering.
4. Add the chicken and season one more time to taste. Divide among bowls and top with a few rings of the raw leek, all the herbs, a drizzle of olive oil, and some crushed chili flakes or hot sauce if you like.
These past many months of weekly movies and recipes has felt like the biggest luxury ever (almost too good to be true)! And the fact that it's free for all on Youtube blows my mind - this world of 'content' is frankly completely absurd! I would happily buy the DVD box set of Alison Roman Home Movies – along with any book you might conjure up. So thank you so much for all your thoughtful and hard work! And please work less now. We're all trying to, and we need good examples to follow <3
Alison, I cheered you on reading this. I'm a Substacker, I'm exhausted, and I'm working on making it sustainable. Thank you for everything, thank you for your spot on comments, and THANK you for your takedown of "content" (did anyone consult artists, writers, and the rest before labeling us "content providers"? Like we deliver product, right? Just no.