Soup is a staple in most of Central America. Its warm and nutritious, easy to make, and fills up hungry bellies. It is also considered to have healing properties. In addition to the cold remedy properties we usually associate with mom’s salty, herbed chicken soup, Latin American soup is usually made with a bone broth stock and is naturally high is MSM, an all-natural pain killer. In my travels through the mountains and islands, I have been offered delicious soup, often cooked over an open fire, in many humble kitchens. And I don’t mean just chicken soup, but shrimp, lobster, fish, clam, and conch too!
Often the soup in the jungles and rain forests is served with whole chicken legs, or un-shelled shrimp (with the heads still on!), or chunks of fish with the bones still in them, or clams still in the shell. You pick the meat out of the soup with your fingers and eat it while occasionally sipping the broth from the bowl or dipping your tortillas in it. No spoons required!
Soup making really is a ritual. This soup is easy to make, but as you handle the ingredients, stay present, focused on the simple task at hand. Notice the colors and scents and textures and temperatures of everything you handle.
You will need
Coconut oil (olive is a good substitute)
½ a large onion (you get to decide what kind)
½ a green, red, or yellow pepper
4 cloves of garlic
4 chicken legs
Sea or Himalayan salt
Fresh parsley or cilantro
Cut up the onion and pepper and garlic. The garlic can just be peeled and cut into slices or you can mince it if you prefer. Pour enough oil into your soup pot to cover the bottom of the pan. Add veggies and cook on low heat until soft. Rinse chicken legs well, making sure to notice the warmth of the water on your hands as you do it. Put the chicken in the pot and pour in enough water to cover them completely. Cover and simmer (try to keep it just under a full boil) until the meat is falling off the bone. Probably about ½ hour, maybe longer. You are going to lose some of the water. That is OK. Just push the chicken down so it stays covered. If you must add a little more water, keep it to a minimum. Add salt to taste (probably about a full 2-3 teaspoons) and a handful of washed, fresh-chopped parsley or cilantro.
Ladle the broth into a bowl and add a whole chicken leg. Serve your soup with tortillas, bread, or rolls. Eat the meat with your fingers and sip the broth from the side of the bowl. Dunk your bread or tortillas in the broth.
This is a full-on sensory experience. Be aware of the warmth of the broth spreading throughout your body. Feel the steam on your face as you sip from the bowl. Hold an attitude of thankfulness for the nourishing value of the soup. At a base level, soup and bread are common to cultures all around the world. As you savor your meal, be aware of your connectedness to all of humanity in the simple enjoyment of soup.