I was under the weather and home from school. The annual illness of the year was upon me and I was sick along with half the country from whatever bug nature had conjured up. Luckily for me, my grandmother was available to keep watch over me as my parents worked.
“Michael, I have prepared a mustard plaster for that chest of yours and have brewed my special chicken soup,” my grandmother said as she bustled about my room, folding clothes and adding a layer of blankets to my bed. I smiled as her comforting way was more of a medicine than she could realize. When she was done, she sat upon a rocker in the corner of my room and shared a tale, one that was fitting for the time.
The summer of 1838 began like most summers with the end of school, the beginning of planting, and an abundance of hay harvests. But when James Miller, a local farmer, fell ill, most chalked it up to nothing more than a cold, but soon the entire Miller family began to fall ill and the grip of the sickness seemed not to let up.
Not soon after, other families fell ill and the strain on the community was intense. The town elders called for an emergency meeting while folks began locking down their farms and homes. They gathered supplies as fear and panic began to set in, but a glimmer of hope lived some 4 miles outside of the town. In her she held the key to the salvation of not the disease, but the strength to remind the town of its purpose and its humanity.
Sarah Sutton was the midwife of Donbridge and through her extraordinary abilities, she was able to fix droughts, cure diseases and hold darkness at bay. While she was first to make sacrifices to save the town, it should be known she never asked for anything in return.
As Sarah worked the community, she went door to door healing the sick, and as she did, she would notice that a family would have an overabundance of something.
At one home she saw a family had large amounts of carrots and Sarah asked for a few when her services were finished. At another home she noticed a family had a large amount of potatoes and another had large supplies of chicken and she asked for some. Each time she visited a family to help them, Sarah would gather supplies.
Slowly she amassed a great sum of vegetables and meat. Clever as she was, Sarah decided to make a soup from everyone’s supplies and went back to each home, giving them a portion. She continued this until the entire town had benefited from the healing broth and was cured of the illness.
Months later, Sarah was honored by the elders of the town for her work, but refused to take any honors. From the crowd James Miller shouted, “You healed us with your soup, Midwife Sutton!” Sarah smiled and shook her head, politely disagreeing. She then stood amongst the crowd and said, “All of you healed each other as it was your supplies that made the soup that healed all of you. Remember that community heals community, not at the hands of one but at the hands of all.”
When my grandmother finished, she brought me a bowl of chicken soup. I happily ate it, all the while smiling at my grandmother. When I asked her how she made it, she smiled at me and said, “I only did what all of us should always do, contribute whatever I could when I could and lend a hand to save the whole.” A tear flowed down my cheek as my grandmother left the room, for I knew she wanted for nothing, only to give of herself as she wanted others to do the same.
Grandma’s Chicken Soup
2 cups chopped chicken
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3 chopped parsley stalks
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove of garlic
2 cups chopped celery
2 bay leaves
4 teaspoons onion powder
2 quarts chicken stock
1 cup rice
In a large pot, combine all ingredients. Add water as you simmer the soup or as needed. Simmer for 1-and-a-half hours. Add rice. Simmer for 25 minutes more. Let stand for 15 minutes. Serve.