Opinion: Soup

Soup is still the ultimate comfort food. Soup is soul food. A form of medicine. A steaming bowl of tomato soup administered by mum while you are wrapped up in a blanket with the sniffles.

By Jeremy Ryland


Last week I talked about comfort food (12 June 2019). Simple uncomplicated foods that make us feel warm, safe and protected; that relieve stress and remind us of our childhood or time spent with parents, grandparents and other special people.


The list of favourite comfort foods can be different for each of us. We all tend to love the food that takes us back to our roots – the foods we grew up with.


One of the most evocative comfort foods is the simplest – soup. Sadly soup seems to have fallen out of favour today. It was not that long ago that every menu had two or three hearty soups on it. Soup was the standard entree available in chain restaurants and diners as well as high-end premium restaurants. While soups are still a staple in Asian cuisine and popular as “amuse bouche”, they seem to have slipped from the normal Aussie menu. 

While soup is available all year round, it is during winter that we really appreciate how emotionally comforting a bowl of steaming soup can be.


Soup is a simple dish, full of flavour and nourishment. The word “soup” is derived from the idea of soaking. The “soupe” was the slice of bread on which was poured the contents of a cooking pot called “potage”.


Historically soups or potage were thick and hearty providing peasants with their basic daily meals. Soup was customarily served with the meat or vegetables with which it had been made and was poured over bread or toast – the ancestor of the modern crouton.


The modern restaurant is based on soup. The word “restaurant” was used by the French to refer to a thin soup sold by street vendors that was advertised as a restorative. In the eighteenth century, it became popular to serve the soup as a healthy meal on its own and the word eventually became fashionable to describe the place to eat soup and other good foods, as it is today.


Soup is a simple dish that can be served hot or cold and as an appetiser or as a main meal. When made properly, soup can be simply delicious, warming and comforting. Soup can be very simple, such as a clear consommés or a plain chicken broth, which even today is believed to have medicinal qualities. Or it can be a complex hearty meal such as minestrone, bouillabaisse or a bisque.


Every culture had its own version of soup. From the classic French onion soup to the Russian borscht, Spanish gazpacho, New England chowder, Chinese won ton, Campbell’s tomato, Japanese miso and Italian minestrone, every soup had its own unique flavour based on its place of origin and the ingredients available.


Almost every culture has its own variation on chicken soup, and rightly so – it's one of the most gratifying dishes on the face of the Earth. ‑Yotam Ottolenghi


And far from being just a thick drink, soup can also be very healthy – providing a good serving of vegetables. Thick, warm soup is also filling, reducing your hunger at the beginning of a meal so helping you not to overeat.


Soup is affordable, using relatively cheap ingredients and leftovers, and it is easy to prepare. The ingredients can be put into a slow cooker in the morning, ready to be served later in the evening.


There is nothing better than a bowl of warm, hearty soup on a cold winter’s evening.


Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite. - Auguste Escoffier