Soup is Good Food . . . and it’s traditional!

Filed in The Gentrys Pantry by on May 8, 2016 0 Comments

As the Campbell’s company has been insisting for ages, soup is good food.  Indeed it is, though preferably not from a can!  Soup has a number of advantages that go back to the dawn of humanity.  Even before the advent of ceramic cooking vessels, we can readily surmise that hunting and gathering bands made soup in the skins of the animals they cooked.

Soup is good food, even when cooked in a leather bag.

Soup is good food, even when cooked in a leather bag.

You can still cook this way by heating rocks on the coals of your campfire and dropping them into the water until it boils.  The drawback would seem to be all that ash.  Better to do it in a more civilized fashion–in a pot.

Why Soup is Good Food

As I p0inted out in previous columns, soup is good food because it puts all the categories of nutritional in one place where you just spoon it into your mouth without having to think much about Federal Dietary Guidelines.  Italians have known this forever.  Think about it.  While most folk imagine that a traditional Italian meal starts with a pasta dish (which it certainly can) a lot of the time Nona would start with a bowl of soup, especially in the winter.  Think of all the famous soups that come from Italian.  Everyone has had minestrone at one time or another and what is incorrectly called ‘Italian Wedding Soup’ is becoming more popular all the time.  This last, by the way, is a misnomer.  The Old Country title correctly translates to ‘Marriage Soup’.  It isn’t a dish used to celebrate nuptials, but rather a combination of two relatively unlike ingredients into something lovely.  In the case of ‘Marriage Soup’ beef is added to a soup whose base is chicken stock.  My own grandmother made this every Thanksgiving but she, like any good Italian Grandmother, made it out of her head and after she died it took years of experimentation to figure out what she’d done.  And of course, once we had we found recipes all over the place.  Now it’s essential at that time of year.  But fear not, you too can make it.  Just heat up a good chicken stock and add onions, minced carrot, leafy greens, a marrow bone and some thumb-sized meatballs and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  It’s a snap.


Italian Wedding Soup is Good Food

Italian Wedding Soup is Good Food

Soup is Efficient

We have all heard or read the endless admonition to eat five to eight servings of fruit and vegetables each day and from what I have also read and heard, Americans are getting on board with it.  We may not be losing weight or cutting down on our consumption of red meat but we are definitely eating more vegetables and fresh fruit.  Good for us.  When the family sits down to dinner and there is a salad, two vegetable dishes and a fruit pie for dessert the Surgeon General has to be pleased.  But what if the family consists of a single person.  I am in that unfortunate state now and let me tell you, cooking for one is a bore!  So is shopping.  Imagine going to the store and shopping for vegetables and finding that you have to politely opportune the produce staff to let you reduce the size of a bunch of (fill in the blank here( or to cut a head of cabbage in half for you because there is no way in Hell you’re going to be able to eat a whole damned head of cabbage by yourself.  This is where soup comes in and why your grandma is winking at you from Beyond.  Take a week’s shopping of vegetables, throw in some dried beans (canned ones will do for soup) and a small protein serving and you can whip up a batch of soup that will provide you with the ‘primi’ course of a meal that is full of vegetables, and their associated vitamins, minerals, proteins and fiber.   All you have to do is ladle some out, put the pot back in the fridge and stick the bowl in the microwave.  Add a quarter pound of meat, fish or poultry (or tofu if you insist!) and a glass or two of good wine and you’ve got a balanced meal that tastes good and is very, very easy to prepare.  Next week I’ll talk about steeping, probably the easiest way to cook there is but for now just remember that like the jingle goes, soup is good food, indeed.



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