Chicken Soup Redux

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Song and Spirit Institute for Peace is a marvelous organization based in Berkley, Mich., not far from my home. One of its founders and directors, Steve Klaper, is a neighbor. In a previous life, when I worked in corporate communications, he did a lot of graphic design work for me. Now Steve, a Jewish cantor, his wife, Mary Gilhouly, and co-founder Brother Al Mascia, a Franciscan friar, run an interfaith organization that offers not only religious (and inter-religious) services but also a wide variety of community services. Steve sent this piece out to his email list on March 31.

It began (like many scathingly brilliant ideas) as a short conversation in the hallway at Song and Spirit. Brother Al was carrying a large can of powdered chicken bouillon and stopped for a moment to talk about a new initiative he had in mind.

“Chicken soup for the hungry!” he said with great enthusiasm.

He continued, “A fellow I used to work with downtown found a recipe that uses canned chicken and chicken bouillon and we just have to add water, noodles and a little seasonings and we’re good to go.”

Hmmm… he’d lost us at “canned chicken’”…

“Don’t we have friends at area synagogues who might want to pitch in to make ‘real’ chicken soup? Who better to make chicken soup than our Jewish friends! All the Temples have such active Social Action committees and Teen Youth Groups – maybe they’d like to pitch in?”

Temples to the rescue

Within hours, we had firm commitments from two area temples with whom we had worked on many other projects. Both were delighted to find volunteers of all ages who wanted to participate in making homemade soups of all kinds to help their neighbors in need.

So nearly every week – for more than four months now – Song and Spirit picks up 5-gallon containers of hot, homemade soup made by volunteers at Congregation Shir Tikvah in Troy and Temple Emanu-El in Oak Park. (A third temple is coming on board soon!)

Serving as the hands of God

Outreach Coordinator Greg Allen works tirelessly with Brother Al to deliver the huge, heavy pots to area shelters struggling to find enough to feed lunch to the many in our area who are in need.

And Greg never ceases to be amazed at the sincere gratitude of those he serves.

“You know,” he said after returning from a soup run on a frigid, winter afternoon, “all they had to offer for lunch today at the shelter was a single hotdog on a bun, and then we came in with five gallons of piping hot soup. Honestly, I don’t know who was more excited, the people who got to serve the soup or the people who got to eat it.”

He paused, thinking, “Then again, maybe it was ME!”

What’s so important about having an Outreach program at the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace? We allow everyday people the opportunity to act as the hands of God – and they become people who make a difference in the world.

From the editor:
This week’s recipe is something I call Cheater’s Chicken Soup, because you don’t start from scratch, which can be expensive. Making soup from powdered bouillon is disgusting (as Steve notes above). This is a cheap and easy way to get home-made flavor without sacrificing a chicken.

It’s not a normal recipe because you have to start by roasting a chicken, which you can enjoy for dinner. You’ll make the soup another day. So this is more of a method than a recipe – but it makes a great soup! One chicken carcass will make enough soup for two. Want more? Freeze the chicken carcass until you have a few of them; with three chicken carcasses, and three chickens’ worth of “juice,” you can make more than a half-gallon of soup!

Add some cooked egg noodles and maybe some of the carrot you cooked with the soup before serving.

Note: you can cook this soup a long time. Once I put it on the simmer burner at 6 p.m., planning to finish it at 9 when I returned from a meeting. Well, my husband and I both totally forgot about it until the next morning, so it had simmered more than 12 hours. No harm done – the soup was very flavorful!

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