All About Soup: A Bit of History and Lots of Recipes to Warm You As Winter Approaches

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Beautiful Soup so rich So green,
Waiting in a hot tureen
Who for such dainties would not stoop.

Soup of the evening
Beautiful Soup,
Soup of the evening,
Beautiful Soup

Beautiful Sou-oop
Beautiful Sou-oop
Soup of the evening Beautiful Sou-oop
Beautiful, Beautiful Soup.

Beautiful Soup, Who cares for fish,
Game or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup?

Pennyworth only of Beautiful Soup,
Beautiful Sou-oop
Beautiful Sou-oop
Soup of the evening Beautiful Sou-oop
Beautiful, Beautiful Soup.

--The Mock Turtle, "Alice in Wonderland"

In the Beginning...

When was soup invented?

There is no way to come up with a definitive answer, but the advent of combining ingredients in a pot to create a nutritious, filling, easy-to-digest meal (“soup”) probably occurred some moments after the discovery of fire, or perhaps more precisely, when prehistoric man took that first step in learning how to cook—learning how to boil water.

In her book, Food in History, Raey Tannahill states that we knew about boiling water long before the invention of pottery (about 6,000 B.C.). She believes that prehistoric men used reptile shells or the stomachs of animals they had killed as vessels in which to boil liquid.

And, after learning to boil water, man made another discovery. Boiling foods not only makes them taste better, it creates new flavors. Cereal grains and some root vegetables, when heated in water, break down, soften, and release starchy granules. These starches then thicken the cooking liquid, the flavors of the individual ingredients combine, and soup is created.

A Rose By Any Other Name

Sop was the name given to the thick gruel which was made in that first cooking of grain or vegetables with meat and water. The “wealthy” made sop with broth poured on sliced bread.

In Spanish, Portuguese, or Catalan the word is “sopa.” In France, soupe; for the Basque zopa; in Afrikaans you will ask for sop, in Estonia supp; German and Danish have suppe and in Latvia and Poland a bowl of zupa. In English, we have “soup.”

Many nations have soups they have claimed as their own—Spanish gazpacho, Scottish (mutton) broth with barley, and Russian cabbage soup. Each different soup was borne, not out of ethnic price or a desire for individuality, but from a need for frugality and using local ingredients that could be easily obtained.

We no longer have those restrictions. Today, most ingredients for any type of soup are readily available. And that brings us to the real reason for this hub.


Autumn tree
Autumn tree

Do You Know What Day This Is?

Today is the first day of autumn.

Summer vacations are all but a distant memory. Across our country, school is back in full swing and, with it, the myriad of after-school activities—soccer or football practice, band practice, piano lessons, tutoring—the list goes on and on.

Grocery store merchants recognize that not only the crisp weather, but our hurried lives crave the comfort and ease of preparing a pot of soup for dinner. The ubiquitous red and white labeled cans of soup stand in line on store shelves (not unlike children posing for that first-day-of-school classroom portrait.)

Canned soup is certainly a quick and easy fix and a better choice than fast food, but it too has its drawbacks. Canned soup is typically high in sodium and expensive if you are using it to feed the typical family of four.

Have you ever considered making your own soup? Perhaps you think that making soup is too difficult (those long lists of ingredients look frightening), or that cooking soup from scratch will require too much time.

This first recipe takes only 30 minutes to prepare:

Cast your vote for Great Northern Bean Soup

Great Northern Bean Soup

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup baby carrots, halved*
  • 1 cup chopped onion*
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 7 ounces turkey kielbasa, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 15.8-ounce cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 6-ounce bag fresh baby spinach leaves

*NOTE - Peeled carrots and pre-chopped onions can be found in your produce section and will speed preparation of this meal, but will cost a bit more than preparing vegetables on your own. The choice of speed vs. economy is up to you.

  1. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and swirl to coat bottom of pan. Add carrots, onions, garlic, and kielbasa and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium, cook 5 minutes.
  2. Add broth, oregano, pepper, and beans. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
  3. Place 2 cups of the soup in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Return the pureed mixture to the pan. Simmer an additional 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the spinach; stir until spinach wilts.

Serves 5-6

cream of mushroom soup
cream of mushroom soup

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Active time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 40 minutes Total time: 50 minutes

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 leeks, halved, thinly sliced (white and pale green parts only)
  • 2 pounds button mushrooms, sliced (reserve a few slices for garnish if desired)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup long-grain white rice
  • 3 1/4 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 1/4 cups canned beef broth
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  1. Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Add mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms are soft and dry, about 10 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute.
  2. Stir in rice. Add chicken and beef broths to pot. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until rice is very tender, about 30 minutes.
  3. Cool slightly. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth.
  4. Return soup to pot. Stir in cream.

(8 servings)

heads of garlic
heads of garlic

Garlic-Potato Soup

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 heads (no, that isn't a typo) of garlic (see notes below on how to prepare the heads of garlic for the soup)
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 4 1/2 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds) russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 cups (about 1 pound) red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • croutons (for garnish)
  1. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened--about 5 to 8 minutes. Do not allow to brown. Stir in minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Prepare garlic heads--wash, remove outer papery skins, and slice off (and discard) upper one-third of heads.
  3. Place prepared garlic heads in Dutch oven with sautéed onions. Add broth. Partially cover pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer until garlic heads are very tender, about 40 minutes. Add potatoes and continue to simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Remove garlic heads; using tongs or paper towels, squeeze garlic heads at root end until cloves slip out of their skins. Using fork, mash garlic to smooth paste in bowl.
  5. Stir cream, thyme, and half of mashed garlic into soup; heat soup until hot, about 2 minutes. Taste and add remaining garlic paste if desired.
  6. Using immersion blender, process soup until creamy.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with croutons.

(adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

© 2015 Linda Lum

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Comments 11 comments

Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 15 months ago from Washington State, USA Author

Flourish - I don't know about the vampires, but we do live just 2 hours away from where the Twilight movies were filmed. Can't be too careful.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 15 months ago from USA

I love soups and make a variety of them. That garlicky potato soup sounds good and I bet it can ward off vampires for a good long while, too. Wink, wink.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 16 months ago from sunny Florida

Yum....need I say more?

What a lovely collection of soups to try out this fall and winter. It still is essentially summer where I am but soup still is a favorite.

Enjoyed too reading the history you provided.

Angels are on the way to you....ps


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 16 months ago from Washington State, USA Author

Thank you CrisSp. Garlic takes on a whole new life when treated gently. Be kind to it and it will reward you sweetly. Smash and bash it and it becomes hot and fiery.


CrisSp profile image

CrisSp 16 months ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

But I love soup and this is one enjoyable hub.

Saving your recipes specially the Garlic-Potato Soup. Hmmm....delish!

Thank you.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 16 months ago from Washington State, USA Author

Bill, how kind of you to give the folks at HP something to do (hahaha). I hope you and Bev enjoy the recipes.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 16 months ago from Washington State, USA Author

Kristen - Thank you. Please be sure to try the recipes that are in the upper right-hand corner (More By This Author). The ribollita is unusual and especially filling and comforting on a chilly day.


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 16 months ago from Washington State, USA Author

Jodah - Good morning to you. Yes it is so easy to make a big batch of soup, freeze, and then take out on those days when you just don't have the time or energy to cook. Thank you.


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 16 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Carb Diva, I love those recipes. I'll think I'll try them real soon. Nice little ditty about soups as well.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

Love me soup! :) HP will correct the grammar on that first sentence but it was intentional and I don't care. :) Thanks for the recipes.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 16 months ago from Queensland Australia

Carb Diva, I love soup. In fact it is one of my favourite meals. We do make our own soups and always have a supply in the freezer. Your soup recipes sound delicious though and I can't wait to make them. Great hub.

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