The comfort of a hearty soup


What with the warmer weather, green grass peeking through, and robin sightings, it looks like spring is getting closer, so it just might be time to put away the soup mugs and the kettle for another season. I’ve made a lot of soup this winter. I know the calendar says I shouldn’t be doing that any longer, but I can’t really say I’m tired of soup yet.

Homemade soup is comforting to me, even when I’m the one who made it. I really like having something tasty that’s a one pot meal that I can eat from my trusty soup mug in an easy chair or at the table. Besides, after I finish a batch of it, with all the chopping and measuring and stirring and sautéing and timing that involves, the full soup pot feels like a bit of an accomplishment. There’s just something satisfying to me about making soup. It’s different than opening a can, adding water or milk, and heating it up.

I read that Campbell’s developed and marketed condensed soup for the first time back in 1897, so it’s been with us for several generations now. It was promoted so that Americans could now “easily and quickly feed their families with affordable, delicious, and nourishing soup.” Condensed soup was easier to transport, and with the amount of water reduced, it became more economical to produce. It wasn’t long before the company was producing 21 kinds of soup that all sold for 10 cents per can.

Homemade soup–and probably canned soup, too–is a comfort food. That’s why I think it’s worth the effort. When it’s served to friends and family, it makes you feel like just letting go of a contented sigh, sitting back, and settling in for a good solid visit.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have a lot of homemade soup except on Christmas Eve, when oyster soup was always on the menu. I liked the soup just fine–maybe because it was just seasoned warm milk–but the oysters in my bowl were always left on the bottom. It was something about the texture.

Then there were soup suppers, a standard winter fundraiser in many communities that continues today. That used to be an annual task taken on by the men in my church. Some of the men would spend the day in the church kitchen cooking up big pots of several kinds of soup and enjoying the camaraderie of it all. While dessert for other church suppers prepared by the women was always pie, the men served frosted graham crackers, another feature of the tradition.

Maybe I’ll just have to go with the frosted grahams for a while and go back to soup next fall.