Heinz - the best canned tomato soup
Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup - simply the best
I know that this is just my opinion, but nevertheless Heinz tomato soup is probably one of the finest foods in the world. Really.
Caviar? Nope.Filet mignon? No thank you. Maine lobster? You can keep it. Chocolate? Ah ... that's another matter, so let's say the best savory food.
Like most English people, I was brought up with this as the perfect comfort food. It was certainly a quick and easy meal for our mums to serve up, especially since there were always lovely slices of bread and butter to dip.
It's the staple 'warm-them-up' food choice in those cold British winters.When you're seven, and you've spent an exhausting day building a snowman, there's nothing like a bowl of Heinz tomato soup as you sit by the fire, thawing out.
Actually, when you're middle-aged and sitting in the Florida heat there's nothing better either.
I've had soup in restaurants in many countries, from posh places in Paris to delightful diners in Daytona. I've been subtly seduced by long and complicated celebrity chef recipes that I've lovingly slaved over, blending this and puréeing that. I've tried many other canned versions too, and several have been pretty good but I have never tasted one as good. Ever, ever.
The best judge
It was a bit embarrassing to begin with.
I was with my dad in a very fine restaurant; the domain of a celebrity chef. Dad had ordered the lobster bisque. He took a few spoonfuls and called for the server. 'Let me see the chef' he demanded.
Oh no, what was coming?
I knew the chef. I'd recommended the restaurant. The chef emerged from the kitchen ... oh dear ...'Young man' boomed my dad 'let me tell you that I've eaten lobster bisque in the finest restaurants all over the world...' I held my breath and he continued '... and this is the finest lobster bisque I've ever tasted'. Phew.
'Here' he said to me, once the chef had retreated to the kitchen 'taste it'. Well, as a half-hearted vegetarian I wanted to know what all the fuss was about and he was right, it was delicious. 'You know' I said 'it reminds me of Heinz tomato soup'. 'So it does!' exclaimed my dad, beaming broadly.
I moved from England to the States in 1994.
People would ask me if there were any foods I missed and there were only two, English chocolate and ... guess what?
One of my happiest discoveries here in Fort Lauderdale was Fernanda's International Food Market that sells goodies from all over the world and I could get my beloved British buys right there. But oh dear, it was expensive.
But a few years later, I discovered that buying online was the absolute best way to go. I buy in bulk and even though I have a tiny apartment, I stack the cans vertically in my clothes closet and they take up no room at all! By the way, it is completely gluten free too.
Nostalgia or karma?
Of course, I've wondered if the British fondness for a steaming, piping hot bowl of this soup is simply nostalgia. It seems that almost every British person I know loves it and has fond childhood memories of devouring this after a hard day playing in the snow, or a hike across the moors. Then I realized something. What is the connection between my favorite soup, my favorite pop art painter and one of my dearly beloved books? Yes, there is one, spookily enough. Strange really because if someone asked me my interests, I'd say food, books and art.
What does a book have to do with all this?
If you've read the book shown below, you'll recall the scene on the Orient Express when Henry Pulling, the conservative retired bank manager, is talking to Tooley, the young American girl with an artist boyfriend. No? If you haven't read it, all is revealed...
Yes! I first read this book when I was still a teenager myself, probably about the same age as Tooley, the joint-puffing American girl who respectable and insular Henry formed a friendship with. Not that sort of friendship, it was purely avuncular.
I have loved the book ever since because of the adventures of Henry, who was looking forward to a quiet retirement growing dahlias until he met his outrageous Aunt Augusta. He found himself traveling with her - he was certainly 'an innocent abroad' and was soon hobnobbing with war criminals, smugglers and people who he would have heartily disapproved of before his travels began. Oh, the pop artist? See below for an excerpt from this extremely funny, but very sweet, book.
Campbell's or Heinz?
Actually, I have to agree with Tooley. Andy Warhol really should have painted Heinz cans and not Campbell's.
You see, Warhol was from Pittsburgh and that's where the Heinz headquarters is located. So I wonder why he didn't choose to paint his hometown cans?
There are many theories about exactly why he chose these particular cans. Some say simply that it was his favorite snack food. Others say that someone suggested the idea to him and he loved it. Another theory is that he wanted to paint everyday objects. What is known though is that he had no commercial interests with the company. Or was it that he disagreed with Tooley's boyfriend Julian and thought that the shape was better? I wonder...
Don't mess with Heinz
I find that the majority of convenience foods are helped by the addition of something. For instance, it's rare that I have supermarket pizzas but if I do, then I add to the toppings (usually extra cheese) and invariably grind fresh black pepper onto it. But there are only two convenience foods that I can think of that require absolutely no messing about with at all and both are Heinz products.I remember many years ago I was at my mum's house
In England. My brother and his American wife were there too, on vacation from the States. My sister-in-law offered to make a snack for my brother and he requested beans on toast. 'But' he warned ' don't mess with it'. (Actually he didn't say 'mess' but this is a family show). She asked what he meant. She must have been like me when it comes to ready prepared foods. 'No grated cheese, no Worcestershire sauce, no salt and pepper, no herbs. Nothing. No messing'.Cream of tomato - baked beans.
No messing.He was right :)
Start from scratch
One of the recipes I mentioned above was a Gordon Ramsay tomato soup that I slaved over for hours. The trouble was that if you wanted it for dinner on Saturday night, you had to start making it on Friday morning. It is delicious soup but who has that sort of time? I don't. The thing I liked about that soup was that the tomatoes were slow-roasted (still on the vine) the day before and then left for the flavors to develop. The video below isn't that recipe but it's much quicker version.