Nothing takes the place of this creamy, tangy elixir which clears the throat, moistens the chest, warms the heart, and invariably takes me back to my childhood. For this soup, which is most likely Greek in origin, was the first line of attack against all kinds of maladies, but mainly the common cold. My mother would whip it up in no time, and magically the cold would subside or go away for good. Then, she or my grandmother would do the “bottle treatment.” It’s too complicated a process to describe here, and a somewhat bizzar for North American sensibilities. Those among the readers of this blog who have been subjected to having their backs covered with bottles know what I am talking about, and know what a sublime cure it was!
As for the soup, whether it did cure anything does not matter, really, because the taste of this soup–with its heavenly combination of egg, lemon, and yogurt–was enough to bring about complete, unadulterated felicity. In this spirit, and with a runny nose, I offer you this modest, layered, and restorative soup.
Ingredients: Two cups of chicken broth; 2 stalks of carrot; the juice of one lemon; 1 egg; one bundle of the thinnest vermicelli; 1-2 tablespoons of creamy yogurt; a dash of dry mint.
Bring the chicken broth to a boil. Lower heat, add the carrots and cook, semi-covered, for about 15 minutes. Add the vermicelli and cook for a few minutes longer, until the ingredients are well mixed and completely cooked. Turn off the heat and let it rest. Squeeze the juice of one lemon, less if you prefer a less tangy taste. Beat the egg and the lemon together thoroughly. Fold the yogurt into the lemon-egg mixture and let it settle for a few minutes.
Now comes the most important part of this soup. You must watch out that you don’t “break” the egg mixture when you put it gently into the chicken broth. To avoid this, make sure that the temperature in the two components (the chicken broth and the egg mixture are close to each other. To do this, scoop spoonfuls of the hot chicken mixture into the cold egg mixture. Do this slowly, and methodically, stirring the egg mixture gently after each addition of the chicken broth. Once the two temperatures are nearly the same (put your clean pinkie into each!), gently but swiftly pour the new egg mixture (which is now quite warm) into the chicken broth. Stir once or twice and let it sit for a few minutes, but not too long. This soup must be consumed shortly after it has been prepared. Sprinkle dried mint and serve with a good, rustic bread which you can cut into small pieces and put in the soup.
By morning all signs of the cold will be gone, I promise. If not, make a second batch.