It is claimed that we can trace the liquid food of the simple soup back 20,000 years and that is not surprising as the humble dish has been part of our global culinary history since forever. In previous eras the idea of a modern kitchen stocked with all manner of pots, pans and gadgets was a pipe dream for some future time and the grassroots cooks of antiquity generally combined all and any ingredients at hand into one pot, added liquid and the end result was a repast that hopefully would fill the hungry belly.
It is also said that the basic soup in Classical times was the food of invalids as to the mix of meats or legumes and vegetables were added medicinal herbs and spices to aid in healing. In the modern world nothing has changed as we still urge on our patients into taking chicken soup or beef broth to rebuild their recovering bodies back into health.
Historically the staple soup, gruel, pottage, stew or porridge took on provincial influences depending on where one lived and what grains, vegetables and herbs grew indigenously to the environment and on what meat could be obtained; rabbit, fish, beef, venison or mutton. We can still see this reflected in some of today’s menus; Spanish Gazpacho, Italian Minestrone, Greek Avgolemono, Russian Beet Borsch, or the New England Chowder for example.
For many citizens of the world this simple meal was just that, simple in its components of herbs, legumes or chestnuts and root vegetables unless one was fortunate enough to be able to catch and kill your own meats/seafoods or had the means to raise them.
It is the historical and central component to this dish that gives it its name; ‘Our modern word "soup" derives from the Old French word sope and soupe. The French word was used in England in the in the form of sop at the end of the Middle Ages and, fortunately, has remained in the English language in its original form and with much its original sense. We say "fortunately" because it is clear that nowadays a "sop" is not a "soup." The distinction is important. When cooks in the Middle Ages spoke of "soup," what they and the people for whom they were cooking really understood was a dish comprising primarily a piece of bread or toast soaked in a liquid or over which a liquid had been poured. The bread or toast was an important, even vital, part of this dish. It was a means by which a diner could consume the liquid efficiently by sopping it up. The bread or toast was, in effect, an alternative to using a spoon...Soups were important in the medieval diet, but the dish that the cook prepared was often a sop that consisted of both nutritious liquid and the means to eat it. The meal at the end of a normal day was always the lighter of the two meals of the day, and the sop appears to have had an important place in it. In fact it was precisely because of the normal inclusion of a sop in this end-of-the-day meal that it became called "souper" or "supper.”
‘100 Soup Recipes’
By Simon and Alison Holst
Published by Hyndman Publishing, North Canterbury, NZ
Into the world of soup cookbooks Simon and Alison Holst have arrived with this fabulous collection of easy to make hearty bowls of comfort food. The recipes here are duplicable in that one does not need to raid the International section of the supermarket in order to recreate any of the mouth watering cockle warming concoctions on any given page. This reviewer just loves soup and could happily eat it morning noon and night, so this book is a welcome addition to the cookerybook shelf in the corner of ones kitchen to nestle up against Digby Law, Elizabeth David and other sundry cookery books, which in retrospect really need to now be demoted to the next shelf down to make way for this new and welcome arrival. The Holst’s understand the finer point of soup making which is reflected in the delft touches of spices that litter some of soups old dependables such as the traditional Leek and Potato, inspired, truly. And that is what makes this charmer such a breath of fresh air, the unexpected that is delightful to the palate. Well done Simon and Alison, 100 bowls of blissful heavenly delight.
We have 3 copies of this fabulous soup cookbook by Simon and Alison Holst to giveaway, just in time for those frosty winter evenings. See the bubble for details.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with Soup in the subject and include your contact details to be in to win.
Food in the Ancient World from A to Z, Andrew Dalby [Routledge:London] 2003
Food in History, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, translated by Anthea Bell [Barnes & Noble Books:New York] 1992 (p. 177)