I’ve been sick these days. Luckily, it seems a minor winter cold, replete with sniffles and sneezes and head-fogginess but thankfully lacking achiness and fever. Mostly, I lay around for a day or so, reading trashy magazines, blowing my nose, and viewing early Steven Speilberg films (Duel and Sugarland Express, both brilliant). The boyfriend and the roommate took turns playing nurse–buying me truly funky fermented energy drinks, chiding me for not staying in bed, making me tea, and getting me chicken soup. In fact, I had chicken soup for three meals in a row, from three different Ann Arbor purveyors: Noodles and Company, the People’s Food Co-op, and Zingerman’s. I conclude, dear readers, that Ann Arbor is not a haven for this humble, health-giving elixir.
I wasn’t surprised that the chicken soup with noodles from Noodles and Company (which restaurant name I can never get right — I’m known to call it Oodles of Noodles or Mr. Noodle Town) was sub-par. Unlike others in town, they make no fetish of authenticity. The chunks of chicken were a little rubbery, and the broth was like watered-down Campbell’s. But they served it with a really nice hunk of warm bread and butter, and the noodles were big and wide and twisty.
The least disappointing of the three was from the Co-op, mostly because it best approximated homemade: they incorporate lots of fresh veggies and chicken that I’m sure is organic, contains no antibiotics or hormones, and attends the best schools. After adding a several grinds of pepper and healthy pinch or three of salt, it sufficed.
Coming in a dismal third was Zingerman’s chicken soup with matzo balls. I recall my mother having ordered this a while ago and getting a matzo ball that was chilly inside. The overly solicitous waitstaff whisked away the offending bowl of soup to re-warm it, but when my mother tried another bite, it was still cold. (Oy gevalt!) At the time, I probably rolled my eyes at my mom, who makes a chicken broth so consistently clear and full-flavored that it should be bottled and sold, well, on the shelves of Zingerman’s. Her expertise in this area makes her, and her children, harsh critics. I didn’t encounter the same problem as my mother, but my soup was lacklustre: an overly dense dumpling, submerged in a brown-ish, old tasting broth. Zingerman’s wants its Jewish delicacies to make you kvell, but all I could do is kvetch.