The History of Soup

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Of all the foods that we eat, soup may be the oldest in all the long history of human cooking and baking. It can be as simple as you like or as complicated as the greatest chef can possibly design. It is nutritious, easy to digest, and excellent for serving large groups of people. In fact, it is so adaptable that it is popular among sedentary and nomadic cultures, the healthy and the sick, and for the richest and the poorest in society. Soup is also adaptable in the sense that it always evolves to fit the tastes and ingredients that are available on the local level.

The First Soups

The earliest record that we have of this food is as the favored prescription for invalids and the sick. It has always seemed to us that hot soup in a cup or soup container is the very best gift that we could bring to the sick, and we still do this across cultures into modern times. The earliest types that we know of were a bit like gruel and were made with roasted and ground cereals. Until recently, historical sources typically reported that soups were not commonplace in the human deit until about 9000 years ago, but recent evidence has shown 20,000-year-old pottery in China that appears to have been used for making soup.

Soup Innovations

Soups used to be known in France as “restoratifs,” an homage to their perceived value as a health food. From this word we get our word “restaurant,” as these restorative stews where the first foods served at such commercial establishments. By the 19th century, we had developed dehydrated soups and canned soups and there were some of the foods of choice for soldiers on the field and cowboys on the trail. Today there are a myriad of such soups, as well as mixes and soups in a box.

Why Do We Love It?

It’s worth asking why it is that we ever turned to this method of cooking in the first place. Other forms of cooking rely on hot air to roast or bake an item, but when things are cooked in water the heating agent–the boiling water–comes into direct contact with the foods. Not only does this shorten cooking times but it also releases flavors and textures that we don’t get when we roast, bake, or fry. In particular, this type of cooking allows us to derive nutrition from certain things would otherwise not be digestible to us, such as animal bones.

Why Do We “Eat” It?

Have you ever wondered why we say that we “eat” this liquid instead of “drink” it? After all, hot soups typically come in paper cups or in bowls that we sip at in the same way that we would drink other liquids. According to experts, the reason for this semantic difference is because soup is considered part of the meal while drinks are not.

What Are the World’s Most Popular Soups? It’s very difficult to answer this question without angering half the population, but there is no doubt that when 34,000 people were interviewed by the ranking website Rankerabout their favorite comfort foods, tomato soup made it in as number 48. Other statistics rank the top four soups in America as chicken noodle, tomato, clam chowder, and potato. Every year, 10 billion bowls of soup get eaten in the United States. When asked, 85% of the population reports that they prefer broth-based soups over cream-based. As for gender differences, women are typically twice as likely to want it at lunch then men.

Is Chicken Soup Really Good For a Cold?

This could be the greatest question of all time. The answer is, “yes.” Long considered an old wives’ tale, more recent studies have shown that freshly made chicken soup (not canned or bouillon) supports the white blood cells that combat viruses and infections and also opens up airflow and mucus drainage in the nose. It may not help you get over your cold faster, but it definitely helps you feel better.

In 2016 more than 32% of delis reported that they were planning on beefing up their soup stations. Considering how much we like the stuff, this is probably an excellent idea.

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