I don’t know what’s happening where you live, but my house, neighborhood, school district and city at large seem to have been hit by a pandemic of colds, flus and even pneumonia (that would be my wife). Everywhere I go, I see people with watery, puffy eyes and runny noses looking plain miserable. At my son’s school, one of the kindergarten classes was reduced to three kids from 16 on Friday because so many were out sick.

I’ve somehow managed to dodge the germ bullets flying around, but everyone else in my house has been laid flat. I can only imagine how much worse things would have been if hadn’t been so sunny and everyone was cooped up indoors. But as I write this, rain is in the forecast, so things could get worse. The only defense I have is my chicken soup. Chicken soup has proven anti-inflammatory properties and always makes me feel better.

The trouble with chicken soup is that it often doesn’t taste very good. The canned stuff is loaded with salt and tastes flat. Making your own is the way to go, but many people are daunted by chicken stock. Chicken broth in boxes doesn’t cut it. It tastes like it’s been seasoned with cardboard. There are countless recipes for homemade chicken stock, and I’ve tried half of them. I’ve settled on a recipe that has several compelling virtues. It’s easy. It’s quick. It’s cheap. And it tastes great.

This recipe is really two-in-one. It requires a bit of planning but not much. First, buy a roast chicken. (You can roast your own, but when someone in my family is sick I’m going for fast and convenient.) Costco makes a good one, and most grocery stores sell them. Take it home and eat it. If you can, leave a bit of meat on the carcass. It will go into the soup and help flavor the broth.

The important thing is to save all the bones. Roasting bones is the key to a rich broth, and buying a roast chicken means it’s already been done for you. I keep a plastic bag in the freezer where I store all my old chicken bones. You can make a good broth with the bones from one bird, but more bones are better. Anyway, here’s what you do to make four bowls of soup: Put all the bones in a big pot with enough water to cover by three inches or so. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. It’s important not to boil your broth, which can make for a cloudy, less-than-delicate broth. Simmer for about 90 minutes.

Add a little more water if need be and then add a cup each of diced carrots, onions and celery. Drop in about 10 peppercorns, a few bay leaves and a wad of fresh parsley. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Adding the vegetables earlier will only serve to leech out their flavor.

Strain the stock through a fine wire mesh and return to the pot. Reserve the chicken bones and let cool. The broth will be a little bland. Add two teaspoons of salt, the juice from half a lemon and two or three dashes of Vietnamese fish sauce. Yes, fish sauce is my secret ingredient. No one will ever know it’s there, but the fish sauce boosts the umami quotient of the broth. Taste the broth. You don’t want it too salty, but add a little more salt if need be. Meanwhile, once the chicken bones have cooled, pick off any meat and reserve.

That’s it for the broth. So easy and so economical. Now saut some carrots, celery and onion and season with salt and pepper. Make sure to retain some of the vegetables’ snap. Cook some rice, pasta shells or barley and add it to the broth along with the vegetables and reserved chicken and serve.

That’s it. I hope you feel better.