Why I Love Soup
Soups are underrated. They’re clouded in this illusion that they are boring and not enough to make a meal. I obviously find this to be the furthest from reality. I could eat soup every day. As someone that needs variety the worst idea to me is having to eat the same thing every day. But soup is so variable, even by its very definition: a usually hot, liquid food made from vegetables, meat, or fish. Usually hot, meaning it’s not always hot. It’s not always made from stock or water, it’s totally adaptable, open to interpretation by the individual chef. For a Gemini like me, ruled by the element of Air, this flexibility is extremely appealing.
There’s also something really satisfying about a making and eating a great soup. Somehow, my favorite soups seem to take simple ingredients and create something far greater than the individual components. Anytime I can play around with adding condiments to match whatever mood I’m in and personalize my meal, I’m in my happy place. That’s why soups like pho and chili are some of my favorite foods. There are endless varieties of soups, which overall are a budget-friendly, nutrient-dense, easy option. There’s a soup for whatever occasion it is. I bet you either have a recipe or know someone with a soup recipe that’s been handed down for generations. What a concept, a history of a family tracked through a soup recipe.
The earliest records of soup estimate it going back to 20,000 BC with the invention of vessels like clay pots that could accommodate boiling. In Medieval times, it was common for pubs and inns to have a “perpetual soup,” where a cauldron was never or rarely emptied all the way, and ingredients and liquid were replenished with whatever on hand. (Side note: Around 2014, an NYC chef got notoriety for bringing back this concept and even managed a Twitter page called @perpetual_stew from the stew’s perspective. True story.) Soup became more of how we see it on shelves with the invention of canning soup in the 19th century. One of the most iconic soup brands, Campbell’s, began making condensed versions with Tomato soup in 1897. Dried soup mixes also came to market around this time with the first commercial bouillon maker, Maggi, in 1908. It’s still a worldwide favorite seasoning brand. Soup’s long-lasting power to stay on menus in restaurants and home kitchens, one can assume, is due to its ease and adaptability.
So now, let’s get into the reasons why soup is the ultimate dish:
Easy and Forgiving
If you can boil water, you can make soup. To make most soups, you’ll only need a cutting board, knife, and a pot. Easy prep and easy clean up. You can also pretty much leave it be, as there isn’t a whole lot of active time spent cooking. A slow cooker is also a soup’s best friend, because you can really set it and forget it.
Soups are perfect for learning how to develop flavors and experimenting with spices. All cultures have a variety, if not signature soup, so you can definitely find ways to explore cuisine within one food group. Soups are also a forgiving medium for playing around with spices and substituting ingredients. You can “wing it” with soups more so than a lot of other dishes. Substitute vegetable broth for beef broth, kidney for black beans, and turkey for chicken. Some substitutions may change the nature of the soup a bit, but chances are it will still be delicious. Added too much salt or cooked it down too much? Add water. Too watery? Add some potatoes, reduce it, or add in some cream. There’s always a fix, always an alternative.
Whether you’re hankering for a light, broth-based soup or a meaty chili, soup can hit the spot — creamy and smooth or chunky and rustic. Bland for an unsettled stomach or spicy for a bold appetizer, soup can fit the bill. Even in the summer months — try a cold version! The possibilities are endless.
Soups happen to be super frugal because they can be a nutritionally complete, one-pot meal. The ability to easily scale soup recipes makes it a good option for a crowd. You can make soup as budget friendly or fancy as you want, a lot of commonality here with salads. (Maybe that’s why they’re so often paired together?) Making soup is a great way to stretch your ingredients—especially the more expensive ones like meat and cheese. Use meat as a flavor-enhancer. Instead of incorporating cheese into the soup, save it to sprinkle on top. Soup allows you to do whatever is best for your budget without sacrificing flavor.
Warming & nourishing
In some cultures, soup is eaten for breakfast as a hearty first meal to warm you up and fuel you for the day ahead. There’s something comforting about the aroma of a fresh soup simmering in your kitchen for hours. Since soups are mostly liquid, they're an easy way to stay hydrated. They give your immune system a boost and you can fill it with ingredients like garlic, ginger, and turmeric for their famed cold-fighting properties. Soup is also an easy way to eat your veggies. If you’re having trouble eating a balanced diet, try incorporating soup.
They’re not all watery
Soups don’t have to be boring or have a weak broth. Ramen is a soup, Pho is a soup, chili is technically a soup. You get the point. They can be extra thicc or a light broth with a main star (think tortellini en brodo). Make them how you like them! They can even be cold and refreshing like a gazpacho! (We’ll be exploring this more during the summer, as having a really great gazpacho will blow your mind. And no, it’s not like a cold salsa!) Besides, if you want to make a more substantial meal out of a soup add a side of rice, or cooked pasta into it. I absolutely love a good chicken soup with a side of rice. I will probably dunk my spoon in for the first couple of bites, then just add the rest of the rice to the soup. It automatically bulks up your meal to and make it feel more like an entrée than an appetizer.
Soups make great leftovers. In fact, they usually taste even better the next day as the ingredients settle. They can also be made with leftovers and a great way to make your own soup base is to save your vegetable scraps and meat bones for broth. Soups are great to take whatever scraps you have in your refrigerator and freezer. Add vegetables, cooked grains, broth, and beans. Not sure what to do with the last of the bunch of parsley or cilantro? Throw it in the soup! They also freeze well, so it’s easy to make a big batch and store for a future meal instead of throwing out food. If freezing a soup with starches or big chunks of veggies, my stepmom will strain the liquid and freeze separately so the starches or veggies won’t absorb all the liquid. It’s a great tip to maintaining the quality of the soup, so it’s just as good as when you first made it.
How to make the best soups.
First thing: the best soup is the one you really like. It’s that simple. However, there are things that will help you develop an even better soup. Like in all cooking, making sure you have a combination of flavors (salt, acid, sweet) and textures will give you a good profile. Making your own broth will help you control the amount of salt and unnecessary additives. You’ll have a better-quality base for a soup when you make your own broth. But if you’re short on time, there’s nothing wrong with a good quality store bought broth or bouillon. There are also tools that allow you to make soup easier. Get a good quality soup pot that is large enough. I prefer an enameled cast iron like LeCreuset for even cooking. Also nice deep bowls, a good ladle and an immersion blender. Immersion blenders are great because they save you from having to move the soup into a food processor or blender and you can still control how “blended” you want your soup. Last but not least, step your soup making game up by adding hearty garnishes on top: sour cream, fried onions, julienned radishes for a crunch, tons of fresh herbs, or the best garlic croutons: toss chunks of bread in Mojo Garlic Sauce and toast.
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 Definition according to dictionary.cambridge.org