the love [and the weight]

Health, Hospitality Industry

There’s been a lot going on lately in the chef community in regards to depression, anxiety and suicide.

Ever since Bourdain, we have been woke. And this doesn’t begin to touch on all of the chefs who struggle with substances A to Z.

I’ve been lucky to have worked for people who haven’t ran me into the ground, physically and verbally.  The stress of a restaurant failing and succeeding are so tight, that the way a person carries it to their staff is almost too much.

I had a hard week following Bourdain’s suicide. Those closest to me saw that.

I was stuck in a deep, dark hole.
I was heavy with grief.

I was thinking of nothing but my failures. My failed marriage. My failure as a husband and partner. Failure as a friend, boss, chef, uncle, son, brother. It seems when the dark pours on you, it is terribly hard to get out from under it. Like a heavy blanket.

The anxiety of a slow restaurant and failing everyone that I worked with was also riding up to my shoulders. The risk of changing our service. Adding loads more overhead and pulling in okay numbers was almost over my head.

I would fantasize about working in front of a computer. Or being like my friends who sit through meetings and explode on the weekends to burn off that office smell. I would think to myself, “It would be so nice to not worry about our walk-in breaking down in the middle of this summer heat.” Only to have it break down a day later.

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This work, as I always talk about it, can be so ultra rewarding, and the weight can also be so heavy.

I love the challenge. I love the competition. I love to cook. I love holding myself to a certain level. Some of that stress I absolutely put on myself.

I am lucky to have friends and family who decided to listen to me, and ask if I was okay, because I so was not.

You should check on your strong friends, too.

Open up. Be vulnerable if you can, because it seems we are all overwhelmed with the state of things. It is tiring to give a shit, and to keep giving a shit.

It’s hard to start owning something. It’s even harder to keep it up. That’s the weight of doing something new, and having people respond.

I don’t suppose this is anything new. But it’s new to me.

This is real, though. I think that’s what scared me the most. You have to take care of yourself. You have to open yourself up wide. Maybe that’s how things get in, but it’s also how they all get out.

If you do find yourself reading this, and you need some good words or someone to listen, please reach out. You are more valuable than anything, and I hope you find the strength to see light and goodness and hope.

 

 

 

Being Alone. (More Thoughts on Being an Introvert)

Health

“Why do all you introverts always post stuff about being introverts?”

My co-worker said to me while unloading a sheet pan full of almond bostock.

She had a point.
We do.

Considering what I’m about to write, will only perpetuate the fact. And I’m okay with that.
I should also just go ahead and get this out of the way.

When I read things about being introverted, I get all warm and fuzzy on the inside. Like I’ve found my tribe. Like there are other people out there who hope their Friday night plans get cancelled.

But not all the time. That’s a misconception of our breed. We do love you. We love your company and your conversation. But we also love when you give us the space to collect ourselves. What we need from you is to be okay with our aloneness. Because we are. I can understand why that can be hard to grasp.

Also, there has been a lot of studies and books and articles in the past few years that have really taken off. Susan Cain, is an example. Introverts, look her up and read her book while you’re sipping tea early on a Saturday evening with Downton Abbey playing in the background.

I do love personality tests. I loved that aspect of Psychology. Something I could have spent ten-minutes online doing, rather than spending $700 learning in three months.

But it is what it is. And we all know I’m kidding, sort of.

I think it also helps people diagnose themselves. Instead of that alienating feeling of being by yourself, you embrace it. You own it. That time is yours and your time has immense value. Sometimes you do look at it as a gift to others. Like, hey, I’m paying attention to you and talking to you for a large chunk of time. That’s a big deal for me. And when others begin to value that in you, being best good friends is in order.

And you are correct in assuming that no one person falls into extremes. There are levels and shades of grey. Maybe even 50, if you’re into that kind of thing.

For me, this is how it goes:

When I come home from work, I have to decompress somewhere quiet for at least an hour. I need to gather myself. I can make it going from one hectic thing to another. But it will drain me much faster and I won’t be able to process things nearly as well. (‘Hectic’ being up for debate, depending on which side you fall under. Sometimes hectic is answering the phone.)

And yes, the phone! I hardly ever pick up the phone unless I’m waiting for something business related, someone prescheduled calling me at a certain time, or a close family member.
Don’t take it personally.

I’m just not ready.

Which is why texting is brilliant. It gives us time to respond. It also gives us the space to give you options.

“If you don’t want to eat there, that’s fine. Is there something else you want to do?”
So on and so forth.

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I know this seems tedious. But it’s really not. It’s just how our brains work. Less spontaneity. More thought out plan of action.

Surprises…are hit and miss. I’m usually not a fan of being surprised. But it depends who’s surprising. Someone who I’m close to might understand what may or may not overwhelm me. Even if it does, I won’t show it. But it’ll take a toll.

Writing it all out, sometimes makes me feel like a huge bummer. But it’s not the case. I find joy in quiet and noise. With company and in solitude. It all comes down to your health. How do you feel healthy? How do you feel energized and able to give to others? And how do you find yourself giving to others?

This is a reason cooking has been great for me. I get to spend time doing my job, taking care of others while not directly interacting all the time. I’m not rude to anyone or dismiss them, but I can work twice as long doing my own thing, than if I have to consistently be in communication with other people.

If you can take away something from this, it would be me telling you that being alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely.

Sure, there are always times where being alone can make you feel lonely. And that’s okay. Listen to that. And if it’s something that’s hurting you, then by all means, don’t let it get the best of you. Because there’s nothing wrong with you. Okay?

But also, to many introverts, being alone is how we function best. But it’s not the only way we function.

So there, here’s another article you can post to your Facebook about how being an introvert is normal and that you are a proper functioning human being.

Extroverts, we got nothin’ but love for ya. We are glad you exist in this world.

After all, who else would we be attracted to?

‘Tis the Season

Food, Health

The holidays are always changing for me.

In a sense, we want the best memories of our childhood to last. Some of us keep going back to it. That sense of nostalgia and warmth paired with food and tradition.

Granted, some folks grow up with messed up childhoods. So know when I say childhood memories, I’m referring to the formative things that made many of us feel good. Hot cinnamon rolls. A good hug. Sleepy eyes waking up to those familiar sights and sounds. I suppose those things will never change.

This season, for me, is usually one of over-indulgence. My birthday is coming up this Sunday, so it falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas (as it always has since I can remember…) Everything I celebrate with others comes at the ass-end of the year. Which is nice, but usually leaves me feeling worn out by January 1st. I think most of us feel that way.

We all kind of climb into our holes for a few months after New Years, I think. At least for the best parts of my introverted being, this is the case. And that’s okay.

I think more than anything, I want to be aware of it all. These things are overwhelming to a lot of people. Watch a little kid during a Christmas get-together and that’s about what the inside of my head looks like, even while I’m sitting quiet in a corner rocking back and forth. Okay, maybe not that dramatic, but you get what I’m sayin’.

What I want to say, is that we’re usually all over the place. ‘Tis the season to freakin’ chill out. I’m hoping for that this season. To process it as it comes. There are good reasons why we celebrate with each other and I mostly want to be aware of it all. To feel not so burnt out and exhausted. I get too much of that at work sometimes. I don’t think it’s healthy, so I’m gonna try and have that be a priority for myself and with the folks in my community.

In other news from the holiday season, I got some good news back from my latest doctor adventure. And I say adventure in the truest sense because I go in with loose expectations. I could hear hard things or positive things, I could cry my eyes out or laugh my arse off. This is how it usually happens.

But I’m still getting better.

Yes.

Better.

What a great word. There are some things with my cholesterol that I need to steadily work on, but my triglycerides have lowered dramatically and my HDL is higher, which means good things for how my body is rebuilding itself. I’m still losing weight and am at 208, which doesn’t look too terrible on my tall frame.

I’m a big dude, there’s no doubt about that. My belly is here to stay, but as I find myself saying more and more, it will be a healthier belly.

A lot of this came from cutting out sugar — mostly in the form of alcohol and refined carbohydrates (I know, I know, you’re sick of hearing that.) I’m not pushing this in your face. You know what’s good and bad for you. I’m not going to brag about how I eat clean or healthy, because for some people, it’s probably not the best. I had to get better emotionally as well.

I’ve worked hard for this.

And that’s when I broke down.

When I told my doctor, “Man, I’m just so stoked…” I just lost it. He pulled out his conveniently placed box of tissues and I blew my already runny nose. He responded, “Yeah, you worked really hard for this!”

It’s good to be proud of yourself. To be brave and confident. So much of the world is hard on us. To be this and that. To act certain ways while holding yourself up.

But I’m still getting better! And for lack of better wording, I’m so f***ing proud.

This time last year, I was really down and felt terrible. And while I did so much work, I’m also so thankful for my doctor. The dude has helped me with some amazing tools. (And I did it all without health insurance. And I’m thankful for those family members who have helped us with these things as well.)

So as usual, when I got up to write a blog for Southern Belly, I was never quite sure where it would end up.

I’m glad it’s ending this way.

But it’s not actually ending.

Not even close.

 

 

My South (And What You Might Not See)

Food, Health, Story, Vacation

Mississippi washes over you like a wave.

The smell of the grass and tall weeds hit by the hot sun. Crickets.

Moss hanging from them trees that we were told as kids had lice in em’. Well, Me-Maw wasn’t wrong, we found out.

It sounds different than the Pacific Northwest. The way the trees rustle and lose their leaves. Discovering the Battle of Raymond — now just a hay field off the Natchez Trace. A good place to pick up acorns and the occasional mushroom.

It is my home when I’m not in Oregon.

I think y’all know this by now.

But what you don’t know is how that place makes me soft. The mix of family and smells and deep fried carbohydrates puts me into that place that I’m so familiar with. Odd, how a place does that.

I visited home last week and had such a great time. We went to Mississippi State Fair and ate fried alligator and smoked turkey legs. I almost threw up on at least two rides, mostly due to the block of fair cart food sloshing around in my (usually) well balanced belly. I didn’t much mind.

I watched my mom in the kitchen, orchestrating dinner and snacks and realized where I got it from — why it feels so natural — and why we both get it. Someone has to be in charge of that stuff or people get grumpy and hungry. We know, we know.

I got to each lunch with my niece at her school where my sister teaches 1st grade. She’s such a good teacher. I love looking at her classroom and realizing how bad I am at math. God, I miss cubby holes. And naps! And chicken tetrazzini!

It’s also been since last December that I’ve seen my home state. I was not in a great place health wise, as y’all might recall. Having heartburn and stomach pains nearly every day.

I started going to a doctor and 10 months later, have dropped nearly 45lbs. Stomach pains have stopped and I haven’t had heartburn till I made Gran’s chili, but that’s just to be expected, I think.

Southern cuisine is struggling. Fast food has destroyed what made Southern food so good. If you look hard enough, you can find mom and pop storefronts that are making the real stuff. You’ll find T-Beaux’s seafood stand that builds on to its small trailer every year. You’d be surprised to find a lot of gas stations doing their own stuff.

Mostly you’ll notice the fast food. I strolled into Wal-Mart looking for headphones when I noticed nearly everyone walking around with soda in their hand, shopping. And I don’t say this to cast a bad light on my people. Because I’ve come a long way to lose that habit and it’s changed my life.

I mean, to feel how good it is to have folks say, “Whoa, you have lost so much weight!”

Damn straight.

I worked hard for that. Fought back control of my body. Only to see the struggle of the South. To take back what made it so unique. But I will say it again, fast food is killing the South. Cheap, empty calories, sugar highs and temporarily full bellies.

Real southern food is not this. Don’t kid yourself. Vegetables are a HUGE part of Southern foodways. The “meat and three veg” joints. The huge potential of growing amazing food out of the earth. I saw the most beautiful fresh okra from the street fair. It looked like it was still alive and moving. I don’t know if I’ll be able to buy the other stuff again.

I crave this from my South. A place that most of the world is still so curious about. A place where food and hospitality reign over anything else.

You won’t really find any izakayas or Michelin rated restaurants.

You will find my family and friends who are there. Adapting and moving in the way Mississippi lets you. You’ll see that my mom uses real butter now and that my Gran hooks us up with that awesome yellow cheddar from Mississippi State. I love that.

We’re all still moving and adjusting, hardly settling. And that’s okay. We experience growing pains everywhere we plant our roots.

Thankful for the times sitting around the table and getting to spend time with my niece and nephew. Always so sad to leave, but with each trip, learning what it means to have two homes with lots of people who love us. So thankful for all of it that I just eat it up.

Mississippi, as the sign reads, is always like comin’ home.

 

Tools for Deliciousness

Food, Health

Sometimes it feels like cheating.

When someone eats something you’ve put minimal effort in and claims it to be delicious. “What did you do to this?”

Probably, not much.

Granted, there is technique and heat and timing. Some of that is intuition and just doing it enough that you start understanding how it all works together. But then there are things we don’t do to food that make it delicious. Like not cooking it too much or just using salt and pepper. Or really, just salt.

One of the biggest eye openers since learning to cook is how to properly salt foods. Yes, salt makes things delicious. Don’t be afraid of it unless it’s in the form of preservatives. Always check out cans before you buy them. Anything in bottles and such. That’s really one of the only ways you’ll find yourself eating too much salt. Salt is good for us. We need it to function. There are tons of different kinds of salt. Most common you’ll see table salt. I almost always prefer kosher salt. So much so that if I’m going somewhere to cook, I’ll bring some with me because I hate having to cook with table salt. I’ve talked about this before. Just invest in some kosher salt. It caramelized meat better and you’ll have an easier time properly seasoning food. Maldon sea salt is also brilliant. It’s in bigger flakes. Goes great on meat as a finishing salt, or a little on top of your chocolate chip cookies. (Shyeah!)

Remember, salt enhances flavor. Pepper adds a flavor. The two are not always cohesive.

Use good butter.

Oh, and cook with it — all the time!

A little part of me dies on the inside when I see margarine in someone’s refrigerator. Why?? It’s no better for you. It’s processed veggie oil and water. You’re better off eating real food. We were built to eat real food. I think that’s why it all tastes so delicious to us.

“What’s in this?”, you ask?

Probably butter.

I know you’ve probably read that margarine is better for your heart, but my (and other) doctors disagree. Real animals fats are better for our bodies than processed veggie fats.

If you’re not a fan of veggies, I’d recommend roasting them in your oven with a good amount of olive oil and sea salt. Roast them until they start to brown and caramelize. It will change the way you see them and you’ll probably start wanting to eat them more. Introduce yourself to things in this way.

Especially if they are good for you.

Buy fresh ingredients. Buy good olive oil. I promise it’s worth the extra dollar or two.

The biggest thing in learning how to cook food well is to taste good food. Find a place that is known for its fresh/local/seasonal foods and eat there. Once something becomes your pinnacle for deliciousness, strive to cook that way. Don’t ever stop learning.

Get a fancy cookbook and attempt to cook one really impressive dish once a week or two weeks. It’ll cause you to keep a few extra ingredients around that you probably wouldn’t have tried.

For me, it comes down to what I don’t do.

I don’t want my broccoli to taste like cheese.

I want my broccoli to taste like broccoli.

I’m not speaking for everyone when I say these things are absolute. I’m sure you all have secrets to making your food taste good — I just know in my experience, a few things you can count on are fresh ingredients, good olive oil, proper amounts of salt, real butter and good ole’ fashioned learning. Start with those things and work your way up. Cooking becomes so much more awesome when the things we cook turn out surprisingly delicious.

With love and butter,

Josh

On Being Healthy (Part 2)

Food, Health, Story

It’s safe to say that I’ve spent this year learning what it means to take care of myself.

If I’m honest, a lot of things came easy to me. That tends to happen when you begin to fear for your life (or at least being a healthy human being.)

I’m not in good enough shape to call myself healthy or fit or “good to go”. I do drink beer and eat pizza and may or may not have a half eaten bag of Cheetos sitting beside our recliner. (Granted, they are the ‘healthier’ version of Cheetos which are just kind of BS when you want the real thing.)

With all of this said, I’m still losing weight and my blood pressure is still dropping, albeit slowly. My blood sugar level has decreased, though my body is still creating insulin when I fast. My cholesterol hasn’t changed too much, which was a little discouraging at first until my doctor explained to me what cholesterol actually was. Granted, high cholesterol isn’t great, but neither is severely low. And there are good and bad kinds. But as I was explained to, there has never really been much evidence to prove that high cholesterol (when speaking just of cholesterol) was a result of a person’s death.

But high cholesterol mixed with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc — that’s when things start getting messy. That’s when plaque builds in arteries and when sh*t inevitably starts hitting the fan.

[This is based off a conversation with my doctor and no, I don’t know where the studies are on this. But I trust my doctor. He’s helped me in ways other doctors have not been able to come close to. I trust what he has to say. Do not take your medical advice from me because everyone is different and has different needs. This is just my conversation and what I’ve learned about the things that are good and bad for my body.]

Sterols like Lipitor are given to people with high cholesterol. Lipitor blocks cholesterol from being made. Our bodies NEED cholesterol to function properly. It helps produce crucial vitamins, proper brain function and our ever-so-important hormonal activity. Out of 600 folks, sterols have only helped one out of those 600 people while the other 599 eventually got sicker and/or died due to their conditions.

In almost every other case where a person lost weight, their health dramatically increased.

This is to say, medications can only do so much. What is killing us (and what we hear everywhere) is obesity. Being overweight with the combo of high blood pressure and high insulin levels in the blood lead to what is most killing us these days.

Things like stress inflame those ever so important things in our bodies. Dr. Luke uses words like “inflammatory” when talking of things that aren’t too good for our bodies. Inflammation causes are bodies to do all sorts of things, including shutting down. It’s why I had so much pain in my belly. My liver was inflamed as well as much of my endocrine system was all jacked up. My adrenal glands were producing too much for my body to handle. Most either due from being overweight and/or stressed.

I’ve been eating and doing not-so-good things to my body for many years. I can’t expect 6-months to change things too drastically. But I have been losing weight. My blood pressure is lowering and my body is starting to regulate its blood sugar level.

I know this sounds like a lot. And it is. But these are the things I have to deal with right now. Especially coming into an industry where it’s easy to abuse your body to stay awake and work longer hours. It’s important to know what your body can take.

You can always change.
You can always move.
There’s nothing stopping you from this.
You just need to find a starting place and just…go.

And remember, you can always start again tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a blank slate.

Make it something huge.

 

 

When it Tastes Good…

Food, Health

There’s this saying, “Eat what’s good, when it’s good.”

I like this. Especially as we’re entering into the best growing seasons. Spring to Summer and to Fall again, some of us are gettin’ a little antsy. Granted, we buy salad greens in the winter, but we know… we know…

There’s the overwhelming sense of goodness when eating in tune to a season. You can bet that in late Spring into Summer, those bright colors you see in the local grocery stores and markets are at the peak of their lifespan. That is, before hitting your tongue and nourishing your belly.

Asparagus. Artichokes. Fava beans and collards. Strawberries and rhubarb. Lovely greens and reds are peaking up above the soil. Pretty cool when food comes out of the ground. Somehow that helps me to figure out why this life makes sense sometimes. Some things…just work.

Also, what grows together goes together. (A quote, I think, attributed to Tom Colicchio.)
Strawberry and rhubarb is a perfect example of this.  Also a summer gratin or ratatouille using those gorgeous little summer squash.

Not to beat a dead horse, but this stuff is important! The seasons teach us so much. Like how tomatoes need pretty hot temperatures to be lovely and red and green and orange. And how wine grapes do best during those hot summers. The grapes become sweeter and so much more complex. It’s important to see what the sun and heat do to make things taste good.

And that’s what this is all about. Eat it when it tastes good. Eat a lot of it. You’ll probably get sick of it…but then again, you probably won’t touch the vegetable again until it’s in season. (Or if you can, you’ve already found your way around this.)

Our kitchen has been getting warm the past couple of weeks. The sun has been out and into the 80s and I already feel it in my bones. When roasts tend to lose against the cooler counterpart. Then again, maybe we’re supposed to eat lighter in the Summer.

So in a last ditch of encouragement…when it tastes good, eat it!

Let the sweetness of these fruits fill us up;

and then let the warm sun heat our skin;

because when it’s good, it’s so, so good.

On Being Healthy

Food, Health, Story

I think about all the food I’ve consumed throughout my life — the fast food, soda, chips, home-cooked and sit down meals — and realize that we do, inevitably, become what we eat.

I realize that even in my head, my best memories are of good food. I don’t think I’ll ever sit down and say, “You know, that time I (almost literally) forced my Mom to get me McDonalds?” Sorry mom. I know I was stubborn for beans and rice. Look at me now, though, eh??

Part of my journey to becoming a healthier person is to realize where I’ve come from.

I think food is emotional. Actually, I don’t think it is.

I know it is.

I also know people emotionally eat. (Which is usually not a good thing.) Mostly, food reminds us most of our childhoods. Maybe even more so than the smell of cut grass or the inside of a baseball glove.

In a sense, I’m creating something new within myself. Like the way tomatoes taste in the summer time. Or eating outside with the sun upon our faces. That will remind me of Oregon. I know this deep down.

Or when I visit home and sip my Mom’s tea out of my favorite pitcher and eat her sweets that line the counter. It’s like slipping into a warm bed. (A place where sweets are usually NOT to be consumed…though we’ve found evidence as of late!)

I’m creating a healthier me. Correlating healthy food experiences to my healthier being. Remembering how good those vegetables tasted and why losing weight is so fulfilling. I feel as though I’m slipping into the body I’m supposed to be. I don’t think I was built to be skinny. I’m a big guy and will always carry that with me. But I can change and adapt to what my body needs.

And right now, that’s good emotions. Good relationships. That with people and food. And it just so happens I’m working on both of those things daily…which given an entire lifetime just might be enough time to pass it along to others.

Happiness is most real when it is shared.
It is given to our children and at some point, their own.

What we eat passes on through our bones and throughout eternity.

It’s time to make that choice.

To be better.

One day at a time.

What You Should Know About this Blog.

Food, Health, Story

Nearing 100 posts (combining my older blog, “Of Southern Contour” and SB), I realize I’ve been all over the place.

I’ve learned that it’s been a place of narrative, recipe, and updating the virtual public on where life is taking me (with food and otherwise).
It started as a way of promoting a possible food cart. Now that my food projects are changing, as in, what it means for me to cook food for myself and others, SB has become something substantial all together.

Lately, my life has led me on a path to being healthy. Or..to be a healthy being.

I follow a few blogs that talk about the history of the candy bar or five different ways to cook cauliflower. And while those things are helpful and interesting, I believe this food journey of mine to be a bit more holistic. Meaning, I want to look at food, industry, culture and health all in one. I write wanting to give myself and others the means of understanding how food affects our well-being.

I know I’d have more blog followers if I took pictures of the food I cook and eat, or design meals for busy families, but I’ve always wanted Southern Belly to be different.

If you need recipes for chicken, there are a thousand other sites that will help you. And while I will post a few recipes here and there, I realize that I’m not super great on translating how I cook into words. Deep down, I want to help you with the basics. Understanding the basics will take you above and beyond most other blue collar cooks. (For a person looking to learn the basics, I’d recommend Michael Ruhlman’s: Twenty)

I can’t say that I’ve cooked long enough to develop solid recipes. When people ask about broccoli recipes, I shyly admit that I don’t have any. That when I eat broccoli…I just…eat it. I steam it, add a little olive oil and salt and eat it. I think it’s important to understand how broccoli cooks before you can explore its characteristics.

I hope I haven’t let anyone down by not producing a legit recipe every week. When I cook something worth sharing, I promise I will let you know. Otherwise, I’m not an index on what to do with the almighty green bean. (Though I will say learning how to blanch vegetables is really important.)

And I’m sure there has been no expectations of producing such things, but I just thought I’d write a note explaining Southern Belly a bit more. In the likes of Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”, I wanted this place to be a combination of food, history, health and recipe. And that’s just what you’ll get.

…and lastly, If I ever nail down my cornbread recipe…

you’ll be the first to know.

Thanks for taking time out of your day to read this blog. I’m so glad that you’re here.

(Very Chicken-y) Chicken Soup with Crispy Chicken Skin

Food, Health

I’ve caught a bug over the past few days. Nothing too serious, just enough to clog my head — making it feel like it’s full of lead — where you try to breathe in through your nose and worry that your eyeballs will get sucked into your brain. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic.

Soup is often a miracle worker when it comes to having a cold. It’s a good way to ingest loads of good aromatics, garlic and liquid that’s easy for your stomach to digest.

And like I said only a couple of posts ago, soup used to scare me. Especially chicken soup. How was I to ever get full? It tasted too watery — too “Campbell’s soupy” that I didn’t like growing up. I try to stay away from noodles and rice, and in the past have added rice at the end of the soup to stretch it out — to have a little more for my belly to digest.

I made some chicken soup last night using some technique I’ve picked up over the years. I added some extra flavor so this soup would give me the most chicken-y, vegetable-y flavor I could fit into one bowl. This is how it goes.

What you’ll need:
1 – 3-4lb whole chicken
3 medium yellow onions, 2 cut in half, 1 finely diced
6 cloves of garlic, 3 smashed, 3 minced
6 ribs of celery, 3 cut in half, 3 finely diced
6 carrots, 3 cut in half, 3 finely diced
salt, pepper
pinch of cayenne
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp. canola/vegetable oil

What you’ll do:

In a big pot, throw in your chicken. Add your halved onions, carrots and celery. Add your smashed garlic. (A sprig of fresh thyme, if you have it) Fill it up with cold water till it covers the chicken. Add a few pinches of kosher salt.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the chicken is done, skimming off crud and foam as it floats to the top. About 20-25 minutes. Lift the chicken and make sure to drain the cavity juices into the pot before transferring to a plate for cooling. Continue to let your chicken broth (with veggies, etc.) simmer away while you cut up your veg and letting the chicken cool.

(Flavor note** By adding mirepoix (carrot, onion, celery) to your cooking liquid, you double the veggie flavor you get in your final dish. I love this. Such a good technique to pick up on.)

In a separate pot, toss in your oil and bring it up to a medium heat. Add your diced onion, carrot and celery. Add a pinch of salt. Cook for about 10 minutes till everything becomes soft. Add your garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.

Strain the broth you cooked your chicken in. Or, scoop out the veg with a slotted spoon or sieve.

After your veg gets soft, add in your chicken broth (about 5-7 cups, perhaps. Really, however much you want.)

Bring it up to a simmer.

Now, this is the fun part. Take off the skin of the chicken in as big of pieces as you can. Reserve to the side. Take off all the meat and tear into bite size chunks. Throw into soup and warm through. Add your thyme and taste. Add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.

When you’re ready to serve, grab a nonstick pan and start cooking the chicken skin on a medium heat. Don’t add any extra oil as the chicken skin still contains a good amount of fat. The skins will render and will shrink and crisp just like bacon.

Dish up your soup. Add a half tablespoon of butter to the bowl, if you want. I mean, butter is just too good and adds such a nice balance to the broth. Top with crumbled up fried chicken skin. The skin adds a good crunchy texture to the soup. Plus, it just makes it taste more chicken-y, and that was just what I wanted to do.

If you want, add a little hit of sriracha sauce if you want some extra heat. When you’re sick and can’t breathe, a little hit of spicy clears you right up. Not to mention, all the garlic in this soup is so, so good for you.

Enjoy!