In 1918, The United States (and entire world) was ravaged by a deadly plague: The Spanish influenza. The pandemic took the lives of over 50 million people (by some cautious estimates), which was approximately 3% of the world’s population at that time; just under 30% of the population was said to have suffered from the illness. That’s no minor disaster. Not to mention, the strain’s deadliness was more prominent among the young and healthy, as opposed to typical flu viruses that attack the weak and elderly. So, why, when its effects were so devastating, is this pandemic relatively unknown?
One answer might be that the virus took hold during the end of the Great War, when the world had already been suffering through the war. It was just one last blow (possibly the most destructive) after four long years of world-wide anguish and sacrifice during the war. Another possibility might be that the virus spread quickly, and then moved on. It visited towns for 2 to 3 weeks, and then after the death toll had risen to the point of no return, it would slip quietly away to the next town over to wreck its havoc again.
So, why am I interested in this infectious plague? For two reasons (1) Bound, the young adult novel I co-authored with my fellow blogger Melanie, features its own deadly plague, and (2) I recently downloaded and read Dunaway’s Crossing by Nancy Brandon, on my kindle app for iPad. Dunaway’s Crossing is set in 1918 rural Georgia.
Here’s the blurb:
Nineteen year-old Bea Dot Ferguson leaves her wealthy Savannah home and travels to rural Pineview, Georgia where her pregnant cousin lives. Her purpose: to escape her abusive husband, who knows her shameful secret. Immediately Bea Dot realizes she’s left one perilous situation and landed in another as Pineview has been infected with deadly influenza. Only with the help of war veteran Will Dunaway can Bea Dot escape contagion. But can he also help her escape her husband’s wrath?
I have the pleasure of working with Nancy, and it’s been great to talk to her lately about her novel and its promotion. Not to mention all I’ve learned about this plague!
If you are familiar with the book, I’m sorry to disappoint, but I won’t be providing a recipe for Bobcat stew, the thought of which disgusts Bea Dot after Will Dunaway tells her he’s giving the carcass of the animal (he had just killed it after it had attacked Bea Dot) to his neighbors to prepare as food. Fortunately for Bea Dot, Will was just teasing and fortunately for you, I won’t be discussing it. I will, however, give you a family recipe for the all-time best cure for the flu: Chicken Noodle Soup. I call it “Polish Chicken Noodle Soup” because it is a family recipe, and because there is no chicken in the soup (you eat it on the side with deli mustard. I know, it sounds strange, but it’s really quite delicious!). Also, let me just preface this recipe with this: for those of you who need exact measurements—you might want to wait and check out my “Jewish Chicken Noodle Soup” recipe (to be posted in a few weeks). The Polish Soup recipe is old country—no exact measurements—but if you’re good in the kitchen, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
1 whole, uncooked chicken, preferably organic (it has more flavor)
1 16 oz box elbow macaroni noodles, cooked just before al dente.
3 or 4 carrots (depending on size), sliced into ¼ inch disks
3 celery sticks, chopped (stalk and all)
Chicken bouillon (to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Remove insides from Chicken (gizzards, organs). Put the chicken in a stock pot and add water to the pot until the chicken is just covered.
Boil for 45 minutes, or until Chicken is cooked (depends on size of the bird). When it’s cooked, remove the chicken and set aside.
In a separate pot, sauté the carrots and celery. Add the chicken water.
Add bouillon to taste (maybe 3 to 4 tablespoons, or cubes). (Ocassionally, I boil the chicken in broth and water mix instead of using bouillon).
Add cooked elbow macaroni. (Sometimes I make homemade noodles for this, but we won’t go there this time.)
Let simmer for a few minutes.
How to Serve
Ladle soup into bowls, and serve with S&P (I like to add a lot of extra pepper).
Place cooked chicken in a large bowl; serve with deli mustard. Allow guests to take a piece of chicken and dollop their own mustard on a second plate. The chicken should be falling off the bone.
Also, I usually like to prepare a platter of “Boss Hogs” (what we call quartered, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) to be eaten with the soup and chicken.
You’ll love the combination of flavors: the simple soup broth, chicken and mustard, and PB&Js!