The call came Saturday. It was not good news, but it was what spurred me to jump into action to prove—once and for all—the efficacy of Jewish penicillin. I’ve concocted this widely recognized panacea countless times, but I didn’t know how effective it might be against the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was a call to action.
I’ve been making chicken soup for nigh onto 50 years. I don’t really have a recipe. I just recall how my grandmother used to make it and go on from there, although I doubt she used leeks.
I was prepared to take copious notes from this latest batch to forward to Tony Fauci. (I’ve dropped the honorific and adopted the familiar version of his given name ever since sending him an email wishing him a happy 80th birthday.) I placed my order for the necessary ingredients and met the young delivery woman who didn’t seem to need a coat in 22° weather. Once in my kitchen, I unpacked the bags and learned that the supermarket had, apparently, run out of chicken.
No chicken? How does something like this happen? What kind of a world do we live in?
My efforts had to be delayed and so, after finally obtaining some chicken, I set to work early Tuesday. The stock was made, and the shaped bread loaf was resting under a white towel. I had only another hour or two to finish the soup, and bake the bread. I needed to complete this latest batch to see if it worked and then forward the double-blind test results to Tony.
The cellphone dinged and I heard the news that my soup was too late to test. Our very dear friend Eve Art had succumbed to the virus Covid-19. We are beyond sad. Devastated, in fact. At times like these, people frequently claim that there are no words and then they continue to talk.
I’m one of those people.
It is sadly ironic that Eve, who, along with her husband Mike, worked tirelessly toward providing comfort and grace to the guests they welcomed at Chico Hot Springs, would fall victim to a disease that is still thought to be a hoax by the least thoughtful of people. There was nothing stuffy about their hospitality, and there was no shortage of humor. (She told me once that she continued to see Mike after their first date because “he was funny.”) They worked to provide safe harbor, good food and good times. They cared about the well-being of others.
The last time I spoke with Eve was one day last week. She was angry that some people were still ignoring the mask mandates and still not practicing safe-distancing. She was not one to suffer fools gladly. She told me she couldn’t wait for all this to return to normal so we could all go back to having fun together. And give each other hugs again.
She also was eagerly looking forward to January 20, 2021.
Eve was born to a well-to-do family in Czechoslovakia. Their wealth diminished considerably when they had to flee Prague, with only what they could carry, to Paris. Later, the family arrived in New York and Eve grew up on Long Island. She mourned the fate of her cousins who perished in the violence of the Holocaust. She attended college at Adelphi University in New York, where she met Mike. Moving to Cleveland to start their married life, she earned her master’s degree at Case-Western Reserve University. It was there that she began a career in elementary education.
Eve was multi-lingual, an avid reader, a devotee of concert music, opera, and Elton John. She was outspoken on most any subject. She could be demanding, but I believe at its root was a sense of her wanting to draw the best out of people, helping them to be the best they could be. It’s what the best teachers do.
Education was a top priority for Eve, writing to me once saying, “I think geography, spelling and legible handwriting should be mandatory, grade 5 through one’s lifetime.”
She went on to write, “When we moved to Montana, relatively smart Cleveland kids asked us if we needed passports. When we settled here, relatively smart Montana kids asked us where Ohio was.”
For many years, Eve and I would attend Bozeman Symphony Orchestra concerts on Sunday afternoons. She always came prepared, knowing the program and spending the day before listening to recordings of the music we were going to hear. After the concerts, we’d stop on the way home so she could get that day’s New York Times.
Eve savored life in many ways. We missed Passover and Hanukkah this year, hence the chicken soup, and she enjoyed many a Bohemian meal I would prepare from my memories of my grandmother’s cooking: bread dumplings (knedlíky), sauerkraut (zeli), and marinated beef (svíčková na smetaně). It reminded her of her family, she told me. One time many years ago, she and Mike had just returned from France where they had dined in a roadside country inn. They said they had been served the best roast chicken they had ever had. Eve proceeded to tell me the story of the AOC-designated poulet bresse gauloise, describing the chicken’s strict pasture diet of bugs and seeds, and the finishing with buttermilk-soaked grain.
I had never heard of this bird, nor thought about any chicken’s diet, let alone its pedigree, and I felt remiss in not going at once to La Bresse to have one for myself. Someday, perhaps, I will, and I’ll raise my glass to Mike and Eve’s memory.
She was enthusiastic about most of life’s enjoyments. She loved the mountains of Montana and the beaches of the Bahamas and Mexico. She found as much satisfaction from a loaf of good bread with some salty olives and a glass of wine as she might from an elegant four-course dinner. She understood perfectly, the value of conversation at the kitchen table. She liked to share good times with those she loved. She enjoyed intelligent discourse, disdaining small talk and idle gossip. She loved all dogs.
Eve pretended to not understand the computer when, if fact, she just preferred hand-written notes and greeting cards. She was thrifty, and yet, generous to a fault. She and Mike raised two wonderful daughters, Andy and Jackie, both of whom treat us like part of a very loving family that indulges as often as possible in raucous laughter.
Geri, Courtney, and I will miss Eve greatly, but we’ll always have the cherished memories of a much-loved friend.
Photography by Courtney A. Liska
Chicken Stock (reprinted from my essay https://jimliska.com/tattooed/, a Holocaust story from March 15)
Known as Jewish penicillin, chicken soup soothes the soul. It may even be effective in our current crisis. I’m hoping that none of you will be charged to test its efficacy. This recipe is the basis for many soups and sauces. Stay well. Wash your hands. Make soup.
2 pounds chicken backs and necks
2 leeks, white and pale green parts, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, peeled, studded with 2 whole cloves
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
8-10 whole peppercorns
4-5 sprigs of parsley
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Wash the chicken under running water. Blanch the pieces in boiling water, 3-4 minutes. Rinse under cold water and reserve.
Place the chicken pieces in a stockpot and cover with four quarts of cold water.
Bring to a boil. Add the other ingredients, bring to a boil and then simmer, partially covered, for about two hours. Be sure to skim the fat and foam.
Strain through a fine sieve and let cool. Remove all of the fat (schmaltz) that rises to the surface.