Cure for the Common Cold?

Cure for the common cold: Chicken soup with matzo balls

So…what’s the deal with chicken soup, anyway?

Chicken soup is the recommended ‘cure’ for any number of ailments, including flu or the common cold. Is there any truth to this?There are no actual ‘cures’ for the common cold. There are some promising new drugs for the treatment of influenza (trade names: Tamiflu and Relenza), but if you have the common cold, you’ll just have to tough it out. There ARE ways to feel better, though. Forget over-the-counter cold remedies. Go back to the basics: get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, and treat fever with appropriate medications (acetaminophen or ibuprofen in children; aspirin is only an option for adults.) Most of us don’t drink enough fluids. If you are feeling a bit queasy from a viral infection, you may be drinking even less than usual. Add fever to this equation, and the result is a very dehydrated patient. Vomiting and diarrhea cause an additional loss of water and electrolytes (sodium, potassium and chloride ions.) One of the consequences of dehydration is malaise (that’s the medical term for, ‘I feel awful.’)Similarly, anorexia (lack of appetite) is a common feature of many viral illnesses. If you have ever tried fasting, you probably noticed that we humans do not tolerate starvation particularly well. After 12 hours, perhaps even sooner, one experiences lightheadedness, weakness, and, well… malaise.

Conclusion: you will feel a whole lot better if you stay well-hydrated and keep the calories flowing in. In this regard, chicken soup is arguably one of the best things you can eat when you are ill with the cold or flu. One simple meal provides water, electrolytes, calories, and plenty of nutrients. Make it delicious, and even the most anorexic cold sufferer can’t resist!


  • 1 cut up fryer
  • parsley, celery and yellow onion
  • salt and pepper
  • butter
  • matzo meal
  • flour
  • 2 eggs
  • vegetable oil (preferably olive oil)


  1. Rinse the chicken parts in cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Lightly salt and pepper the chicken.
  2. Make a flour/salt/pepper mixture (for example: 1/2 cup of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper). Dust the pieces with the mixture. The ‘shake and bake’ method (minus the ‘bake’) works very well: put the mixture into a paper bag (lunch bag size) or a gallon-size plastic bag, add one or two pieces of chicken, seal and shake. Repeat with the other chicken pieces.
  3. Put about 2 tablespoons of oil into a nonstick frying pan. When the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces. Do not crowd (i.e. the pieces should not touch one another). You may have to do this in two or three batches, adding oil as necessary. The object is to lightly brown the pieces on all sides. The only way to mess this up is to burn the pieces, so watch your heat; on the other hand, if your heat is too low, this step will take forever. As each piece becomes nicely browned (kind of a light golden color, really), place it in your soup pot, off the heat. By the way, you can include things like necks and gizzards in the soup, but DO NOT include the chicken liver. Cook it up separately if you like, or throw it away. Chicken liver has no business being in soup.
  4. Add 5 or 6 cups of cold water to the chicken… enough to cover all of the pieces. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. You will let the chicken cook for about 40 minutes before adding anything else. Do your other preparation during this interval…First, wash and then chop the onion, parsley and celery. Use one medium onion, and two or three stalks of celery. Chop about 1/2 to 1 cup of parsley (how much do you like parsley, after all?) Save about one tablespoon of finely chopped parsley for the matzo balls. Also, chop the celery greens (the leafy bits)– all of them.
  5. Prepare the matzo ball mix. Follow the proportions given in the recipe on the box of matzo meal, but use melted butter instead of vegetable oil. (Salted or unsalted, doesn’t make any difference. Use butter and not margarine, though.) For the ‘soup stock or water’, I use water. Add 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper and the tablespoon of finely chopped parsley, and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
  6. After the soup has simmered for 40 minutes, dollop teaspoons-full of the matzo ball mix into the soup. The mix will be thick enough that, if you really must have round matzo balls, you can roll them between two hands. Trust me, they will be delicious even if they look like little sofas. Raise the heat, bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let the soup simmer gently for another 15 minutes before adding the vegetables (see below.)
  7. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil to the same frying pan (don’t bother cleaning the frying pan first). Saute the celery, celery greens and onions. You don’t want to brown the vegetables; you only want to cook them a bit. The celery, in particular, should still be crunchy. By the way, this may sound a bit odd for a Jewish chicken soup, but garlic (if you like garlic) is a great addition to this soup. You can add two or three cloves of minced or crushed garlic to the vegetables, when you saute them. Add the sauteed vegetables and the parsley to the soup. Raise the heat until the soup returns to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. You can now start adjusting the flavor with salt and pepper. Cook for another 10 or 15 minutes. Ideally, the celery and onions are still a little crispy, and certainly not mushy.

Copyright (c) 1998, 1999, Douglas Hoffman, all rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without permission is prohibited.