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Broth Of Life: Soup Flows Through The Veins Of History

The combination of meat and veggies cooked in broth is as old as civilization itself. And there’s not a single cuisine anywhere on earth that hasn’t adopted soup as a staple. Today: A Brief History of Soup. And an illustrative array of styles…

Tom Yum Soup - © nextinlime.comTom Yum: Thailand’s signature soup

Way back WHEN?

The recorded history of soup goes back some 8,000 years, to the ‘cradle of civilization’. Mesopotamia was defined as the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in what is now central Iraq. It was the ideal place for wandering tribes to first settle down. That marked a change from hunting and gathering to farming and husbandry. And led directly to the civilization in which we live today.

The first recorded soup recipe – from Mesopotamia – was based on hippopotamus meat (and, we can assume, hippo broth). Additions included veggies, lentils, sparrow meat, herbs and spices. Not so different from the basic structure of many soups we still love.

Soup spread worldwide with human migration. And eventually made itself at home – in various guises, incorporating locally available ingredients and traditional cooking techniques – everywhere. Sounds simple? Well, the journey took the better part of 6,000 years!

Soups in ‘modern’ times

Perhaps the next ‘breakout’ point for soup as a concept came in the mid-18th century. French street vendors started selling soups as ‘restorative’ libations. They became known as ‘restaurateurs’, a term we still use today for folks who cook for us. The street food phase of soups led relatively quickly to the development of full-on restaurants.

Soup has remained a favourite in both restaurants and home kitchens and entrenched itself in our lives. Entrepreneurs sought to cash in on the universal love of soup. And in 1897, Campbell’s invented canned condensed soup. We still use it today. It’s a must-have for Food Bank inventories and folks on the go. Part of our culture.

Soups around the world

Just to prove our point, that soup has infiltrated the cuisines of just about every culture on Earth, we offer the following demonstrative selection:

  • Pho: Vietnam
  • Hot and Sour: China
  • Chicken Noodle: From China to the world
  • Ramen: Japan
  • Borscht: Russia
  • Consommé: France
  • Split Pea: France, Quebec
  • Gumbo: New Orleans
  • Clam Chowder: New England
  • Minestrone: Italy
  • Gazpacho: Spain
  • Vichyssoise: France
  • Bouillabaisse: France
  • Callaloo: Carribbean
  • Cazuela: Latin America
  • Curry Mee: Indonesia
  • Goulash: Hungary
  • Peanut: West Africa
  • Matzoh: Jewish (Ashkenazi)
  • Sour Cherry: Hungary
  • Tom Yum: Thailand
  • Brown Windsor: England
  • Scotch Broth: Scotland
  • Leek: Wales

… And that’s just a drop in the soup pot!

Final take:

You could try a different soup every day for years before you had to repeat one!

But always remember what a special concept soup is. And how fundamental it is to the whole world’s dining and nutrition cultures.

~ Maggie J.