The Importance Of Soup In A Meal

Published: 28th April 2009
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SOUP is a liquid food that is prepared by boiling meat or vegetables, or both, in water and then seasoning and sometimes thickening the liquid that is produced. It is usually served as the first course of a dinner, but it is often included in a light meal, such as luncheon. While some persons regard the making of soup as difficult, nothing is easier when one knows just what is required and how to proceed. The purpose of this Section, therefore, is to acquaint the housewife with the details of soup making, so that she may provide her family with appetizing and nutritious soups that make for both economy and healthfulness.

It is interesting to note the advancement that has been made with this food. The origin of soup, like that of many foods, dates back to practically the beginning of history. However, the first soup known was probably not made with meat. For instance, the mess of pottage for which Esau sold his birthright was soup made of red lentils. Later on meat came to be used as the basis for soup because of the agreeable and appetizing flavor it provides. Then, at one time in France a scarcity of butter and other fats that had been used to produce moistness and richness in foods, brought about such clear soups as bouillon and consomme. These, as well as other liquid foods, found much favor, for about the time they were devised it came to be considered vulgar to chew food. Thus, at various periods, and because of different emergencies, particular kinds of soup have been introduced, until now there are many kinds from which the housewife may choose when she desires a dish that will start a meal in the right way and at the same time appeal to the appetite.

VALUE OF SOUP IN THE MEAL.--Not all persons have the same idea regarding the value of soup as a part of a meal. Some consider it to be of no more value than so much water, claiming that it should be fed to none but children or sick persons who are unable to take solid food. On the other hand, many persons believe that soup contains the very essence of all that is nourishing and sustaining in the foods of which it is made. This difference of opinion is well demonstrated by the ideas that have been advanced concerning this food. Some one has said that soup is to a meal what a portico is to a palace or an overture to an opera, while another person, who evidently does not appreciate this food, has said that soup is the preface to a dinner and that any work really worth while is sufficient in itself and needs no preface. Such opinions, however, must be reconciled if the true value of this food is to be appreciated.

Probably the best way in which to come to a definite conclusion as to the importance of soup is to consider the purposes it serves in a meal. When its variety and the ingredients of which it is composed are thought of, soup serves two purposes: first, as an appetizer taken at the beginning of a meal to stimulate the appetite and aid in the flow of digestive juices in the stomach; and, secondly, as an actual part of the meal, when it must contain sufficient nutritive material to permit it to be considered as a part of the meal instead of merely an addition. Even in its first and minor purpose, the important part that soup plays in many meals is not hard to realize, for it is just what is needed to arouse the flagging appetite and create a desire for nourishing food. But in its second purpose, the real value of soup is evident. Whenever soup contains enough nutritive material for it to take the place of some dish that would otherwise be necessary, its value cannot be overestimated.

If soup is thought of in this way, the prejudice that exists against it in many households will be entirely overcome. But since much of this prejudice is due to the fact that the soup served is often unappetizing in both flavor and appearance, sufficient attention should be given to the making of soup to have this food attractive enough to appeal to the appetite rather than discourage it. Soup should not be greasy nor insipid in flavor, neither should it be served in large quantities nor without the proper accompaniment. A small quantity of well-flavored, attractively served soup cannot fail to meet the approval of any family when it is served as the first course of the meal.

GENERAL CLASSES OF SOUP.--Soups are named in various ways, according to material, quality, etc.; but the two purposes for which soup is used have led to the placing of the numerous kinds into two general classes. In the first class are grouped those which serve as appetizers, such as bouillon, consomme, and some other broths and clear soups. In the second class are included those eaten for their nutritive effect, such as cream soups, purees, and bisques. From these two classes of soup, the one that will correspond with the rest of the meal and make it balance properly is the one to choose. For instance, a light soup that is merely an appetizer should be served with a heavy dinner, whereas a heavy, highly nutritious soup should be used with a luncheon or a light meal.

ECONOMIC VALUE OF SOUP.--Besides having an important place in the meal of which it forms a part, soup is very often an economy, for it affords the housewife a splendid opportunity to utilize many left-overs. With the French people, who excel in the art of soup making chiefly because of their clever adaptation of seasoning to foods, their pot-au-feu is a national institution and every kitchen has its stock pot. Persons who believe in the strictest food economy use a stock pot, since it permits left-overs to be utilized in an attractive and palatable way. In fact, there is scarcely anything in the way of fish, meat, fowl, vegetables, and cereals that cannot be used in soup making, provided such ingredients are cared for in the proper way. Very often the first glance at the large number of ingredients listed in a soup recipe creates the impression that soup must be a very complicated thing. Such, however, is not the case. In reality, most of the soup ingredients are small quantities of things used for flavoring, and it is by the proper blending of these that appetizing soups are secured.

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