I’ve been in my apartment for two weeks now and I’ve had homemade soup three times; potato soup, root vegetable soup, and bean soup. Sounds like I was soup hungry doesn’t it?
I love all kinds of food, but I’ve always had a special affinity for any kind of soup. I miss my mother in laws’ vegetable soup; I don’t know how she made it, I’ve tried to duplicate it but to no avail. My own mother was a master soup maker. I don’t think she had a signature soup, she just made all kinds. It was from her I learned to put my little dabs of left overs in a container in the freezer until it was full after which the contents was turned into a sumptuous soup.
Soup is the very epitome of comfort food. A steaming bowl of that deliciousness paired with crackers, garlic bread, biscuits or [my personal favorite with many soups] cornbread, elicits a deep sense of satisfaction derived no other way.
The history of soup is as old as the history of cooking. Combining various ingredients in one pot to make a nutritious, filling, easily digested, simple to make/serve food was somehow inevitable. It was perfect for both sedentary and traveling cultures, both rich and poor, for healthy people as well as for invalids.
By whatever name it is called, soup, stew, pottage, porridge, chowder, gruel, and lately ‘stoup’, it evolved according to available ingredients and tastes. New England clam chowder, Spanish gazpacho, Russian borscht, Italian minestrone , French onion, Chinese won ton, or Campbell’s tomato are a few popular examples.
Canned and dehydrated varieties were available in the 19th century and were used by the military, covered wagon trains and cowboy chuck wagons. These days we have dehydrated, freeze dried, canned, frozen and microwave ready soups. The forrunner of these modern soups was the ‘pocket soup’ which was carried by colonial travelers and could easily be reconstituted by adding hot water.
The modern restaurant industry is said to be based on soup. Soups were the first items to be served in public restaurants in 18th century Paris. The name soup is derived from sop or sup, meaning the sliced bread on which the broth was poured and used to ‘sop’ up the liquid. In medieval times a piece of bread with broth poured over it was served for the meal at the end of the day, which was the lighter of the two meals. It was because of this normal inclusion of sop that the end-of-the-day meal became known as sopper or supper. Until bread was invented the only kind of thick soup was a concoction of grains, plants and meat cooked together. Gruel or porridge was a basic staple form of nourishment in Western countries. A thick porridge of some kind is still a staple of many people, made from grains, but many time from other starches, such as legumes, chestnuts or root vegetables.
Soups have long been prescribed for invalids. Soups made of beaten eggs, barley and emmer gruel, or the water from boiled vegetables and meats, or the puree made from vegetables, legumes or fruits have been used to nourish invalids and many times medicinal spices and herbs have been added for increased therapeutic value.
Americans are not such fans of cold soups such as gazpacho or fruit soups, but they are popular in some countries and the idea is intriguing to contemplate when it’s hot outside.
Some people argue that soup is a starter course served warm or cold, or a lunch dish served with a sandwich and a salad, and stew is a main course, always served hot. A new term ‘stoup’ has been coined, which means thicker than soup, but thinner than stew.
I’m not splitting hairs on soup terms; soup, stew, stoup, chowder or whatever name one cares to call it is delicious to me and remains among my favorite foods. One could eat a different soup 365 days of the year and still have a large variety left to choose from. I’ve thought of doing just that; it would be both delicious and inexpensive. The only problem is that I like too many other foods to do that. Yes you might say that food is my one weakness…and soup is still at the top of the list Thank goodness for air conditioning!