soup for the soul
sensational soup
Nothing brings family and friends to the table faster than setting out bowls of steaming hot, homemade soup. With a little help from your favorite herbs and spices, this meal of simplicity can deliver complex flavor and loads of nutrition in every ladle.

[ Soul Soothing Soup: Early Soup ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

a. the simmering vat

The practice of tossing raw vegetables and meat-on-the-bone into a vat of simmering water is as old as striking flint against rock to make fire. Although the one-dish meal was necessary for survival in households with little food to spare or waste, soup was equally enjoyed by the wealthy as well as the infirmed. Soup wasn’t exclusive to any part of the globe either. In fact, various specialty soups that use ingredients specific to certain regions began to emerge independently of each other—French onion, Italian minestrone, New England clam chowder and Russian borscht, to name a few. The earliest soups, however, were little more than a runny paste of ground meal and water. Like your morning bowl of flakes, these were served cold. But the bowl of steaming hot oatmeal or wheat farina as we know it today didn’t appear until much later, when the application of heat and the addition of milk would transform cold mush into cooked porridge and gruel. In the spirit of frugality, cooked cereals had staying power even if they didn’t have a long shelf life. You might recall this nursery rhyme from your childhood:

Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old.

[ Soul Soothing Soup: Pocket Soup ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

b. just add water

Incredibly, and because necessity is the Mother of Invention, late 17th century explorers, travelers and anyone else on the road with limited access to “modern” accommodations could carry “pocket soup” to sustain them. These “just add water” provisions were the precursors to the instant soup mixes we’re familiar with today.

Pocket soup typically started out as veal “glue” made from boiling down a leg of beef several hours until a gelatinous substance remained, which was allowed to harden and age in a “sweetmeat pot” and then wrapped in paper until called upon to be reconstituted at a later date. The latter part of this process is described in The Receipt Book of Mrs. Ann Blenowe (circa 1694):

"Keep it in a dry warm Place, and in a little time it will be like a dry hard Piece of Glew, which you may carry in your Pocket, without getting any Harm. The best Way is to put it into little Tin boxes. When you use it, boil about a Pint of Water, and pour it on a Piece of Glew about as big as a small Walnut, stirring all the time till it is melted. Season with Salt to your Palate; and if you chuse any Herbs, or Spice, boil them in the Water first, then pour the Water over the Glew."

Although the first dried beef bouillon cube didn’t officially hit the market until 1912, its predecessor emerged with the advent of dehydration techniques, which brought pocket soups into commercial production to supply Union Civil War soldiers with portable rations of dried meat “biscuits.” As a complement to this fine first course, desiccated potatoes and mixed vegetables followed. Production of these items continued after the war, establishing the most famous of all dried soup mix brands that, admittedly, most of us use more often to make vegetable dip than soup. (Answer: Knorr)

[ Soul Soothing Soup: Art of Soup ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

c. je ne sais quoi

While others were busy industrializing pocket soup, the French elevated home kitchen soup-making to an art form by creating savory liquids of varying consistencies such as consommé, bouillon and pot-au-feu (broth). Making potage, a term taken from the old French word “pottage” that means “potted dish,” was an improvisation that married boiling grains with meat and vegetables to create a stew-like one-dish meal. At some point in the 1700s, the passion for soup spilled into the streets of Paris with single servings offered for sale in public houses. These early versions of soup de jour (soup of the day) were called “restoratifs,” which gave rise to the term “restaurant.” Construction of the original word warrants further notice since soups -- then and now -- often contain herbs and spices intended to restore health to the sick and nutritional balance to others with special dietary needs.

[ Soul Soothing Soup: Season Your Soup ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

d. 'tis the season

When it comes to seasoning soup, there are no standard rules to apply. Certain herbs and spices can act as the star of the dish while others may play supporting roles. However, recipes with specific ethnic flare will typically feature an ensemble of seasonings that express the appropriate flavor profile. Italian-style soups, for example, usually call for basil, rosemary, oregano and other Mediterranean herbs, while ginger and cilantro are to Asian dumpling soups what chipotle and cumin are to Mexican chowders.