Soup – The multicultural elixir of life
From before recorded history, no food mixture has influenced our way of life more then soup. From the proverbial “Primordial Soup” to the present healing icon of “Mom’s chicken soup”, soup is the root of every culture’s way of life. From the earliest of time humans have been using the boiling of plants and animals as a means to soften or tenderize these foods. This act resulted in the transferring of fats and minerals into the water creating a flavorful soup stock. Soon people realized you could add different seasonings and almost any ingredients that were on hand, and come up with a satisfying and filling source of nutrition. Since Soup is mostly water, it is a practical, healthy, and economical food source for most peoples.
Much soup formed out of necessity during times of war or natural disasters like famines, drought, or floods when there was very little available and you needed a large quantity of something to feed to your family and friends. Soups are perfect for this and can be made to feed a lot of people on just a small amount of ingredients. It also served to reduce one’s appetite so that you wouldn¹t eat so much at each meal.
There is also the other side of the coin too. A lot of soups have come from abundance! Large harvests have given many people an overage of a particular crop that has inspired many new ideas on how to use that bounty. During my many years as a chef, I have seen almost everything edible that grows somehow used in soup of some kind or another. Personally I find it’s one of the best ways to clean out my refrigerator!
Soup has also been inspiration in the arts. Throughout history, time and again, this humble dish draws us to references of artists who were inspired. In the 1600’s quite a few of the French still life’s included a tureen and ladle featured in the paintings. In the late 1800’s, Vincent Van Gogh, in his final years at St. Remy, became so bored with life and food that all he would eat were soups. Two of Pablo Picaso’s famous “Blue Period” paintings were entitled “The Gourmet” and “La Soupe”. These both featured soup as the main subject of the paintings. And of course, who could forget Andy Warhol. In the sixties he created dozens of paintings of soup and soup cans with his most famous being his 1964 version of “The Campbell’s Soup Can”, which brought world acclaim.
It seems no matter where we look, regardless of culture, soups will be found. Nowadays we have even another reason to add to the lengthy list of reasons to eat soup. As people become more conscious about health and environmental issues, again soups play a particular role. Clean water is now an issue! Using water that is unfiltered or chlorinated has become an undesirable thing to do because of taste, heavy metals, and chemical contaminants. Plus there¹s the whole issue of using organic vs. non-organic products. Trying to use only safe and healthy ingredients has become one of the new challenges in this modern era. Hundreds of years ago this was not the case. But in present day agriculture, with soil depletion, wide use of chemicals, improper crop rotation, and lower nutrient values, many manufacturers are beginning to fortify their soups with vitamins, minerals, and even herbal supplements.
I still believe that making your own soup is the best way. I recommend trying to use the purest ingredients you can find, but don’t let it drive you crazy. Start off with filtered water and then add your favorite ingredients. Make a game of it! Have your children or your mate help out. Everyone gets to add an ingredient of his or her choice, and you make a big pot of “Mulligan Stew”. You can get some wild combinations but that’s where the fun comes in. It’s best that only one person does the seasoning part. This way they can align all the flavors properly. The important thing is no matter what ingredients you do use, make sure it tastes good! That way you know it will always be enjoyed.
I love my soups thick and creamy, but as a vegan (a total vegetarian), I don’t use dairy products. Therefore, I’ve learned a couple of tricks for thickening my soups. When the soups are close to finished, take some of the stock and put it in a blender. Add some of the firm ingredients in the soup, or some tofu, or some grain or potatoes that you have in the fridge, and blend it up. Add it back into the soup and stir. If you want it thicker still, just repeat the process till you achieve the desired consistency you want. It’s easy and delicious. There’s nothing like a warm delicious bowl of soup to take the chill out of your bones. – Bon Appetite
The recipe given below is inspired from a letter sent to me by Charles R. from Long Island, New York.
He writes: “Dear Brook, Any vegan way to make a Manhattan clam chowder?”
I think you’ll be very pleased with the following recipe. A hint, if you don’t find the TVP chewy enough for your taste, try grinding up some chewy seitan and using it in place of the TVP
In a large soup pot, bring the tomatoes, juice, and water to a soft boil. Add the seasonings, _ the chives, and the sugar, and stir well. Add the cabbage, onion, and celery, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the TVP and simmer another 15-20 minutes. Ladle some into a bowl, sprinkle with some of the remaining chives, and serve.