Soup, from the French word soupe for soup or broth, derived from the Latin suppe for “bread soaked in broth.”
Even further back, from the Germanic supo or Dutch sope for “broth” or the bread used to sop up the liquid in a stew. Ultimately connected to modern words like sup and supper, foundational words for food and eating.
Soup is mankind’s oldest and truest prepared meal, dating back tens of thousands of years. Early hunter-gatherers would dine on animals killed in the hunt, but then the bones and remains of the kill were boiled to make a fortifying broth. The flesh fed them for a day or so but the soup sustained them until the next hunt.
Almost by definition, soup is a communal dish. It is rarely prepared for a single serving, instead perfectly scalable to feed a family or a multitude. Simple broth was sold by street vendors of 16th century France as a medicinal “restorative” (restaurant) against exhaustion and malnutrition. Centuries later, the first commercial bouillon (“broth”) opened in Paris offering table seating and a fixed menu of soups based on meat and eggs, and was immediately followed by dozens of imitators. Thus, the modern restaurant industry was born.
Soups, stews, stock, consommés, bisques and broth are a story of harmony and balance that span flavors, textures and ingredients. They are born of poverty, necessity, efficiency and convenience yet are elevated to the culinary arts. They are found in all cultures and are perpetually malleable and changing with tastes, availabilities and influences. They are the epitome of balance, composure and proportion.
Embrace the soup and its elegant one-dish simplicity. Learn from its ways and examples, and bring these enriching forms into your life.
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