With the advent of cooler weather our thoughts turn to warning meals that nourish and take very little time to prepare. Soup is the first thing that comes to mind so I thought it would be interesting to delve into its origins.
The etymological idea underlying the word soup is that of soaking. It goes back to an unrecorded post-classical Latin verb suppare soak’, which was borrowed from the same prehistoric German root (sup-) as produced in English sup and supper. From it was derived the noun suppa, which passed into Old French as soupe. This meant both piece of bread soaked in liquid’ and, by extension, broth poured onto bread.’ It was the latter strand of the meaning that entered English in the seventeenth century. Until the arrival of the term soup, such food had been termed broth or pottage. It was customarily served with the meat or vegetable dishes with which it had been made, and (as the derivation of soup suggest) was poured over sops of bread or toast (the ancestors of modern croutons). But coincident with the introduction of the word soup, it began to be fashionable to serve the liquid broth on its own, and in the early eighteenth century it was assuming its present-day role as a first course
Food historians tell us the history of soup is probably as old as the history of cooking. The act of combining various ingredients in a large pot to create a nutritious, filling, easily digested, simple to make/serve food was inevitable. This made it the perfect choice for both sedentary and travelling cultures, rich and poor, healthy people and invalids. Soup (and stews, pottages, porridges, gruels, etc.) evolved according to local ingredients and tastes. New England chowder, Spanish gazpacho, Russian borscht, Italian minestrone, French onion, Chinese won ton and Campbell’s tomato…are all variations on the same theme.
Soups were easily digested and were prescribed for invalids since ancient times. The modern restaurant industry is said to be based on soup. Restoratifs (whereon the word “restaurant” comes) were the first items served in public restaurants in 18th century Paris. Broth [Pot-au-feu], bouillon, and consommé entered here. Classic French cuisine generated many of the soups we know today.
Advancements in science enabled soups to take many forms…portable, canned, dehydrated, microwave-ready. “Pocket soup” was carried by colonial travelers, as it could easily be reconstituted with a little hot water. Canned and dehydrated soups were available in the 19th century. These supplied the military, covered wagon trains, cowboy chuck wagons, and the home pantry. Advances in science also permitted the adjustment of nutrients to fit specific dietary needs (low salt, high fiber, etc.).
Stock is the basis of a good soup and here is a quick vegetable stock recipe that can be frozen to use when required.
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 potato, chopped into large chunks
1/3 cup mushrooms, chopped in half
3 cloves whole garlic
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp soy sauce
8 cups water
dash salt and pepper