Soup: A Brief History
We're four days into National Soup Month 2019, so let's take a quick look at a bit of history on the evolution of this delectable dish we know and love so well.
Who did it first?
Soup is thought to be as old as the history of cooking, with the first evidence of soup making going as far back as 20,000 years ago. This is far earlier than historians and archeologists first estimated, based on evidence previously found. Our deepened insight into soup’s history is due to a discovery archeologists made in 2012 in a Chinese cave containing ancient cookware that had been exposed to fire. Historians believe these early humans were boiling meats and other foods to break down the fat and create a sort of broth from bones and nuts. Of course due to its age scientists can’t be certain what exactly these people were boiling in the pottery but the waterproof and heatproof nature of the artifacts makes their purpose clear.
Cooking soup held certain advantages to our culinary ancestors and became quite appealing when trying to draw out different flavors. Unlike the hot air rising from a roasting fire, boiling water comes into full contact with submerged foods. This allows for quicker cooking time and more complete, even cooking. When they were lacking in ingredients or overall flavor, our ancestors made do with the simple things.
What’s the Word?
The word "soup" comes from French soupe (soup or broth), which stems from the Latin “suppa” or bread soaked in broth. If you look back far enough you’ll find that these forms come from a Germanic source, from which also comes the word “sop”, a piece of bread used to soak up soup or a thick stew.
When did the buzz start?
The modern restaurant industry can tip its hat to soup as soup is most likely the reason restaurants started becoming more widespread. In the 1500’s restoratifs (restoratives) were the first items served in public restaurants in 18th century Paris [Is it the 1500s or the 18th century? Seems to conflict]. Soups were consumed for their herbal properties and were regarded as treatments for certain physical ailments or sickness. It’s no wonder grandmothers advocate for chicken soup when someone is ill, and why moms pair a classic dish of tomato soup with grilled cheese when a child needs comforting. We’ve been feeding soup to sick people for eons. Clear broths for upset stomachs and a delicious chicken noodle for a stuffy nose.
Soup's simplicity makes it an ideal meal for hard times when food is scarce and people have limited ingredients. Soup's simple constitution makes it accessible to rich and poor alike, and simple ingredients make it easy to digest in good times and bad. Throughout history, cultures have adopted their own variations with the ingredients on hand. From Russian borscht to Italian minestrone, the basics remain the same. Though every soup is extremely similar to one another, at their core we still see how soups have become points of pride for certain cultures, because they reflect the ingredients and tastes available to a region.
Advancements in science enabled soups to take many forms: canned, portable, dehydrated and microwave-ready. Canned and dehydrated soups were available in the 19th century and supplied the military, covered wagon trains, cowboy chuck wagons, and the home pantry. Blount's easy to heat noodle bowls are a prime example of just how far food packaging and preservation has come.
Today, nothing can compete with a delicious soup recipe, well made with premium ingredients sourced locally whenever possible.