The Jewish Penicillin

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Arkansas
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/28/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Abstract: The Jewish take on Chicken Soup which is said to be a powerful substance when you’re not feeling well or you’re going through lows in health. This tradition has gone on for a few years but its actual origin is unknown. This remedy isn’t restricted to those of Jewish faith as well as it was mentioned that Christians and protestants use this remedy as well either for illness healing or for the enjoyment of eating soup.

Background: SD is a Jewish-American who attends the university of southern California who’s lived in Arkansas. He’s been living a somewhat Jewish household that holds on to a few of the secrets and traditions celebrated by Orthodox Jews. The Jewish Penicillin is a fancy name to describe chicken soup however this chicken soup apparently has some extra zest which makes it more effective than regular soup. This topic came up while we were discussing some home remedies which our families used to help when we’re ill.  

Transcript: 

P: Ok so I told you about my traditional medicine, give me something you’ve relied on. 

S: So its really simple, its just chicken soup but everyone calls it the Jewish penicillin-like when some I knew had back surgery we got the chicken soup and they were excited we brought them Jewish Penicillin. 

P: Is it like part of the religion to use Jewish Penicillin whenever you’re not healthy?

S: This tradition seems to extend outside the Jewish religion because it’s known about by other religions. Like my mom always told me while I’m at college if I’m sick to go and buy some chicken soup from the store before buying medicine. She really believes it’s extremely effective and honestly so do it. 

P: So what’s the twist? What is the traditional way to prepare this Jewish penicillin?

S: The difference is we use a kosher chicken and sometimes people put in matzo balls which is way different than regular chicken soup but I believe the rest of it is pretty similar to regular chicken soup. 

Interpretation:

It’s interesting to hear that it was labeled Jewish Penicillin yet everyone was using it as a method to feel better. It seems like the chicken soup was over-exaggerated when it comes to its effects but I feel it not about the soup but the lore behind it. The soup carries with it a lot of history and lore which is where the effects come to play. People for a long period of time have been believing in the idea that the new soup carries a lot of mystical powers and through this belief, the effects of this soup are increased. It is noted as well that this soup also has a second use that is able to heal the mind and restore you to a calmer state. 

S doesn’t know the origins of this Folklore but he believes its outlasted a long period of time at least beyond the life of his grandparents. He mentions that he believes the concept is passed down from each generation so it is a significant remedy that is kept alive by many families of Jewish and non-Jewish generations due to its alluded powers of healing. However, S does make a note that not every group makes it the same and there might be some adaptations to the recipe depending on the religious group.