A Magazine About Food, Art & Exchange In Midtown Kingston, Published By The Hudson Valley Current.

Soup, Glorious Soup: Reflections on a Wonder Food

The first soup-maker probably used baskets of tightly woven reeds or animal hide and dropped in a hot rock to make water that would help extract the flavor and goodness from whatever was handy. That was 20,000 years ago, as far as anyone knows. Clay pots made souping it up a lot handier, and humans have been enjoying the savory results with their restorative powers ever since. And we’re doing our part, at Tilda’s Kitchen, to keep your world all souped up.

The very word “restaurant” originally referred to soup, concentrated, filling soup that people believed made you feel better when you felt tired and worn out. This was in Paris, and when somebody decided to open a shop selling the soup, the word we use for public eating places was born. (The word soup, interestingly, is from “sop” as in a piece of bread that one dips in soup, which came to also mean the broth.)

We’ve made soup out of almost everything, from roots and seeds, from kale and crab. There’s a great story, told through time, of someone—a vagabond, a tired soldier, or a wandering monk, depending on who’s telling—who made soup from a stone; in other versions it’s an ax-head or a nail, a button or a chunk of wood—the only thing he’s got, in any case, and when he puts it into the pot and talks with his neighbors about what he’s up to, a soup comes together. A gathering of many small gifts into a blessing for everyone.

We speak of the “primordial soup” when we want to indicate the very beginning of all life, of being “in the soup” when we’re in difficulty or confusion. Those of us who grew up in the late 20th century have “Soup is Good Food!” engraved in our memories thanks to Campbells, which was eventually stopped by the FDA from making that claim because their particular soup had too much sodium in it.

Generally, though, soup IS good food (mm-mm good, even). The classic soup of soups, chicken, earned the nickname of “Jewish penicillin” for a reason; millions of grandmas can’t be wrong, and they’re not. There are proven benefits to this age-old cooking method. Slow simmering means that the ingredients maintain their nutritional assets, which in some instances (beta carotene and lycopene, for example) are transformed by the heating process and made easier for the body to absorb. Other nutrients in your ingredients are retained in that delicious, warm, easily digestible broth. And the magic of soup is such that you can craft a delicious one using (as the stone soup example indicates) just about anything, including things that are not, by themselves, your favorites, but are really good for you. 

Bone broth is a superb and nourishing anti-inflammatory, high in glycine, collagen, and gelatin, that will straighten out your gut bacteria and boost your immunity. Chicken soup has been scientifically proven superior to other liquids in helping to manage upper respiratory tract infections. (Told you Grandma was right!) And soup, any soup, with its warmth and ease, is digested more slowly and steadily than solids, leaving you feeling full longer and keeping your blood sugar stable.

Gut bacteria, the contents of our individual human biome, is being increasingly understood as an important key to physical and mental wellness. In terms of bacteria, we contain multitudes; it’s best when those multitudes are coexisting in harmony, and soup genuinely helps. (Perhaps the entire planet simply needs to be dunked in soup.) It’s ancient wisdom. “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food,” said history’s first known physician, Hippocrates, quite possibly with some soup in his belly; it was great advice around 400 B.C. and it’s great advice now.

With all of these advantages, making soup a menu staple at Tilda’s Market and Kitchen was an obvious choice. Come by any day, especially on a day when it feels like you’re in the soup, for a hot bowl of what we like to call “the Cure,” (yep, it’s chicken!) and see if you don’t find yourself refreshed, satisfied, and nourished. Or try the soup of the day, made with seasonal, fresh ingredients; Curry Butternut Squash, to give a recent example, is as great in the stomach as it is on the tongue.

The healing begins even before the first soothing spoonful, as you breathe in the savory aroma of herbs and spices. As you taste all that flavor, as the smooth warm wonder glides down your throat and warms you from the inside out, your whole day will change and your body will sigh with gratitude. Yeah, Grandma was right.