What is so special about chicken soup?
“All Jewish grandmas think that chicken soup will cure most of the things that are wrong with you. It’s called Jewish penicillin. And then I’ve heard that there’s some scientific support for this, in a paper I cannot find… supposedly if the chicken soup contains at least these four ingredients, it has anti-inflammatory properties, so your Bubby [Jewish grandma] might actually be right. The four ingredients are chicken, onions, carrots, and celery.”
Do you have a parent/grandparent that held this belief?
“I have a parent and a grandparent who would make me chicken soup, and now I make chicken soup, and I fed my daughter who got her covid vaccine chicken soup last night because she wasn’t feeling so great. She felt better after the soup (laughs).”
My informant is my father. He was raised culturally Jewish, and his career is within the science field. This information was collected during a family Zoom call after my sister got the first dose of her coronavirus vaccine. Chicken soup is considered an iconic Jewish food. Variations include chicken noodle soup and matzoh ball soup.
I have been eating chicken soup as a cure for illness my entire life, and I had known that it was called “Jewish Penicillin,” but I had never heard that there might be actual scientific proof that it worked! My father’s statements about the ingredients line up with claims in an article by Alan Hopkins titled “Chicken Soup Cure may Not be a Myth.” Instances of folk medicine being investigates scientifically and then incorporated into Western medicine are common, and these instances highlight that just because a group doesn’t have access to “science” and “technology,” it doesn’t mean that their cures and treatments are necessarily less valid.
Hopkins, Alan B. “Chicken Soup Cure may Not be a Myth.” Nurse Practitioner, vol. 28, no. 6, 2003, pp. 16. ProQuest, http://libproxy.usc.edu/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/chicken-soup-cure-may-not-be-myth/docview/222356779/se-2?accountid=14749.