Of all the foods I love to make, soup is my favorite!
In winter a warm bowl of home made soup is packed with health benefits.
It opens nasal passages that get stuffed up from too much time indoors. It makes a sore throat feel better. The amino acids in chicken broth thins the mucous in your lungs that helps with a cough. Soup keeps you hydrated when you have a fever. A hearty bowl of warm soup makes you feel warm from the inside out.
Getting your vegetables in soup is nutritious because nutrients that cook out of the vegetables are still in the broth. Vegetable soup is not only healthy, its low in calories! Soup is easy to digest so it won’t aggravate your stomach (unless you’re using hot peppers or seasonings).
A hearty bowl of soup is the perfect food. Plus, there are soups for all kinds of people – meat lovers, vegetarians, fruitarians, pescatarians, and vegans!
Soups reflect the different cultures from nations around the world and from regions within those nations. From chili to gumbo, borscht to mulligatawny, seafood chowder to corn chowder, vegetable soup to Italian wedding soup, miso soup to hot and sour soup, you can experience different cultures and delights while rewarding your palate.
But the number one reason I enjoy making soup is because it is a gentle culinary art.
You don’t rush soup. It simmers so the flavors of the stock, the vegetables, meats, and seasonings being used can blend to the perfect balance. While it simmers it fills your home with the most wonderful smells.
Here’s a plus! Making soup has far more benefits than the obvious nutritional ones.
It offers unlimited opportunities for creativity. You don’t have to follow a recipe to make a spectacular pot of soup. The ingredients you choose to put in soup can be selected from whatever you have in your fridge, freezer, pantry, or garden.
Soup lets you take advantage of seasonal fresh produce when its most affordable. That really stretches your food budget. In summer when you can get fresh tomatoes for just a few dollars a peck it’s a great time to make any tomato-based soup stock. In the fall when butternut, long neck, and acorn squash are plentiful enjoy a delicious butternut squash bisque or creamy curried acorn squash soup.
I have a good friend who loves to grow cabbage in his garden. He always has more than he can use and will frequently stop over with a couple heads of fresh cabbage for me. When he does, I make soup. German cabbage, sausage and potato soup seasoned with caraway is a favorite. And I always use cabbage to make my stock for vegetable soup.
One bowl of French onion soup at a restaurant can cost $6-$7. But I can get a 5-lb bag of onions for less than the cost of one bowl at a restaurant and French onion soup is really easy to make at home. I prefer sweet Vidalia onions for mine as I think they have the best flavor.
Another way soup stretches your food budget is that you can use less expensive cuts and choices of meat to make delicious soup stocks. Chicken legs instead of chicken breasts. A chuck roast cut of beef is cheaper than a sirloin, and fattier, so it makes a more flavorful stock. Just remember to chill a meat-based stock when its done and skim the fat that hardens on the top so you aren’t eating a fat-filled soup.
You can freeze soup so it gives you easy, make-ahead meals. Anyone with a busy schedule can make a large pot of soup and freeze it in quart containers for a quick thaw, heat, and eat lunch or supper.
Making soup is a food metaphor for all the ways different cultures and races can benefit from each other if we embrace what’s unique instead of being intolerant of differences. That’s another reason I think of it as a gentle culinary art.
One year at Christmas, instead of a traditional holiday meal, I did a soup and salad bar meal for my family. I had 5 different kinds of soups. I served them with a make-your-own salad bar and fresh baked breads. It was a meal they all loved! And I sent containers of soup home with everyone.
The next time you’re at the grocery store and see those huge bags of carrots for just a few dollars, remember that there are many delicious soups that can be made with carrots (my favorite is carrot and fennel soup). Carrots are a powerful antioxidant, they’re good for your heart, and are considered a superpower of foods because they boost your immune system and help you build antibodies. A great food choice in these times of Covid.
So do something gentle today, something that’s healthy, inexpensive and packed with benefits– make soup!
“Soup is a lot like family. Each ingredient enhances the other. Each batch has its own characteristics. And it needs time to simmer to reach its full flavor.”Marge Kennedy
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