My latest quest for new chicken soup recipes started, like so many other good things in my life, with a Facebook thread. This one ranged over ethnic recipes, starting with an original post about making chicken noodle soup, with kluski noodles in an inherited “cast iron dutch oven” and ranging from different types of egg noodles (kluski are an especially delicious Eastern European variety of noodles and dumplings) to reminiscences of Springfield’s Feed Store, a soup-and-sandwiches haven on the Old State Capitol pedestrian mall for staffers in nearby banks and state offices, Chicago-area activists in town for lobby days at the newer (1868-88) Illinois Statehouse four blocks away, and, in general, for the politically connected.
Toward the bottom of the thread, I chimed in with this: “Looks wonderful! Down South they fry everything in a cast iron skillets, bake bread in them too, and the skillet adds a wonderful flavor.” Chuck Clark, my dulcimer playing buddy and longtime state employee, answered:
[N]othing is easier than chicken and noodles (or chicken and dumplings, which is really the same thing.) You can even make them low fat. Especially if you cheat and use canned chicken. Ya puts a few chopped carrots and celery in a pot. Add a quart of low fat chicken stock and the liquid off the chicken. Added seasonings if you want (I don’t). Bring it to a boil and reduce it to a simmer until the veggies soften.
Bring back to a boil. Add the chicken and break it up with a slotted spoon. Then add a bag of noodles plus more stock to cover the noodles. Bring back to boil, reduce heat, cover and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. Most of the excess fluid will be absorbed by the noodles, and you can always add more stock at the end to thin it or use a little cornstarch to thicken it.
A big bowl of that and a salad is a taste of home.
For that matter, it’s a taste of the Feed Store, too, and a taste of the Feed Store is a taste of Springfield politics, especially on the progressive side of various local, state and federal government aisles. (Springfield was always pretty bipartisan, though until quite recently when the Illinois Republican Party was hijacked by hard-right, anti-vaxer ideologues.)
I remember when I was an administrative assistant to Pat Quinn, state treasurer in the early 1990s, we got the Feed Store to cater the lunch for an all-day public policy retreat that brought middle management types down from Chicago. It was obvious choice — it was on the same statehouse circuit as watering holes like Boone’s Saloon, Saputo’s or Play It Again Sam’s. That bar’s gone now, but its proprietor, state Rep. Sam Panayotovich, R-Chicago, once declared a conflict of interest on a motion to adjourn because so many lawmakers hung out at Sam’s while leadership of both parties were negotiating a structured roll call and last-minute details of the the general appropriations bill in the last days of the legislature session.
So just about everyone who has been involved in statehouse politics in the last 46 years has stories to tell about the Feed Store. (Most are better than mine.) It was established in 1977 by Ann Laurence and husband Ross Richardson in one of the Victorian storefronts on the south side of the pedestrian mall facing the Old State Capitol where Abraham Lincoln gave his “House Divided” speech.
According to Steve Spearie, another Springfield old-timer who now writes for what’s left of the State Journal-Register since it was bought out by successive hedge funds, the Feed Store was — and is — a “quintessential soup-and-sandwich restaurant ,” and it quickly became “popular with state workers, tourists and other downtown workers as well as the future 44th U.S. president, Barack Obama, while he was serving as an Illinois state senator.” For the record (with a hat tip to Steve’s obit in the J-R), Obama, toward the end of his second term, visited Springfield Feb. 10, 2016, to address the state legislature. That noon he dropped by the Feed Store and ordered a turkey sandwich and a bowl of beef barley soup.
Back to yesterday’s Facebook thread. At any rate, Diane Greenholdt, who wrote the OP about chicken soup with kluski, was prominent in the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, waxed nostalgic:
I usually make a loaf of bread (bread machine stuff) to go with the soup, but was also doing laundry so didn’t have time. Another favorite soup of mine is beef barley and I’ve pretty much been able to replicate the recipe that Ann Laurence created at The Feed Store.
And Chuck added:
I have not worked downtown in 35 years and the last time I ate at the Feed Store was the day Senator Obama announced his first presidential run. But I’ll never forget my favorite meal there, chicken salad on rye and mushroom bisque soup.
After I left Quinn’s office in 1993 to teach college English and journalism on the north end, I didn’t get down to the Feed Store very often. But my volunteer side gigs as a living history interpreter at New Salem and occasional political activism (after I retired from classroom teaching), brought me to the Historic Preservation Agency offices or the Prairie Archives used bookstore a few doors down from the Feed Store. And when I was there, I usually got the soup of the day at the Feed Store and the chicken salad, too. On rye bread, of course. After all, I’ve some learned important things since moving up north.
It’s still there, under new management. Laurence and Richardson sold the restaurant at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, a year before Laurence’s death in 2021. As Steve tells the story, “The couple sold the eatery — building, recipes and all — to David Stanks, who formerly owned Bernie and Betty’s, in September 2020 after shutting down the restaurant on July 3.” Bernie & Betty’s, a pizza joint in a residential neighborhood south of the Statehouse, is another Springfield institution. Stanks told Spearie he collaborated closely with Laurence and Richardson to make sure he got the recipes right.
“When I bought this place,” he told Spearie, “they put together this great recipe book with all the step by step recipes, everything that they did here. When I needed something, I could call them and they were willing to help out. They came by every time I made a batch and took a bowl home and tried it. […] My whole idea was that I wanted to duplicate their recipes.
“When you talk about soup in Springfield, this is the place everybody talks about because all the soups are cream based and that’s what I loved.”
Citation: Steven Spearie, “Ann Laurence, the founder and longtime operator of The Feed Store, dies,” State Journal-Register, Aug. 21, 2021 https://www.sj-r.com/story/news/2021/08/21/feed-store-restaurant-founder-ann-laurence-springfield-il-has-died/8213296002/.
All of which got me thinking, hey, we’ve got a freezer full of pulled chicken, I can do that. Without the proprietary recipes, of course, and definitely without the cream base. I’d too old and fat (and lactose intolerant) for that. But I can go online and look for chicken soup recipes. A couple, three that popped up with my first keyword searches:
- Here’s a Mexican Chicken Lime Soup that calls for pulled chicken, tomatoes, avocados (!) and tomatoes, hot sauce and fresh cilantro. A commenter added, “this was great and easy.i used to get get this at a restaurant in atlanta and tried to duplicate it once before i started cooking and was not successful. this was perfect and is my new chicken soup. at least for summer. this only difference i made was to add mushrooms and different colored bell peppers. very pretty.”
- And a German broccoli soup video on the Healthy Recipes YouTube channel. It calls for pulled chicken, broccoli, celery and 200 grams of fresh peas. (I don’t care for pea soup, and think potatoes would substitute nicely.) Since the measurements are metric, you’ll have to convert to ounces, quarts, cups, glasses, the distance between Henry VII’s elbow and his nose, or whatever archaic American measurements our recipes call for. (Or just use the metric side of your measuring cup.) Says the author (in translation): “I’ve had this broccoli soup in my repertoire for a while now because it’s always good for me – I feel much fresher and have more energy! You can also have this soup very well with a glass of water for the evening meal before dinner or for breakfast in the morning.”
- A Mediterranean-Style Turmeric Lemon Chicken Soup contributed to the Mediterranean Dish website by Suzy, who “was born and raised in the Mediterranean cosmopolitan city of Port Said, Egypt.” It calls for shredded chicken breast, spinach and a quartered yellow onion, seasoned with olive oil, coriander, Aleppo pepper, ginger, tumeric and the juice and zest of two lemons. “Prepared Mediterranean-style with loads with fresh lemon juice, veggies, herbs, and warm spices, this turmeric lemon chicken soup is nutritious and comforting in the best way. Make it your own and add different veggies or even a handful of chickpeas for some bulk. See suggestions and notes within the post.
[Published Jan. 11, 2023]