On soup: “The transformation that occurs in the caldron is quintessential and wondrous, subtle and delicate.” – I Yin, 239 B.C.E.
Spring is technically here although temperatures feel more like early summer than spring. But, hey, when is weather ever reasonable here in the Mid-Atlantic? In the seventies this week and maybe snow next week… But I digress. I’ve been procrastinating on this soup/souping article long enough to switch focus from warming nourishment in the cold (hah!) of Winter to Spring cleaning by the bowlful.
Soup is basic to every culture; everything from clay-lined baskets in ancient North America to metal pots on the other side of the world has been used for simmering produce and protein over a fire While my first thought of portable food is dried fruits or meats, according to Jennifer McGruther of Nourished Kitchen, soup was an early food-to-go. In her book, Broth & Stock from the Nourished Kitchen, she details how bone broth was simmered down to a gelatinous syrup which was then dried into glassy nuggets. Portable soup; now how cool is that? These nuggets traveled with Lewis and Clark and many unnamed trekkers. Water and heat were all that was needed to turn them into a hot bowl of protein-rich nourishment for weary travelers.
Soup is usually the starter of a multi-part meal but for many, like the then-fiancé of a young attorney I once worked with, it is the main course. He was amazed that he didn’t starve after his first soup dinner. And why would he? Just consider some of the benefits of soup:
- Probably the quickest way to add more to your eating style
- Provides fiber which helps the body rid itself of toxins
- High fiber content means it takes longer to digest so you’re satiated sooner and for a longer time
- Vegetables have less sugar than fruits which means no sugar highs and lows after eating
- Sugar levels remain stable longer because of the fiber and water
- Feed the compost pile less (or later), your body more
- For centuries, in every culture, soup has been the go-to solution for stretching a little into a lot
- Keeps, refrigerated, 5 days in the fridge and 6 months in the freezer
- It may reduce energy spent cooking a meal since everything is in one container
- Somewhere I once read that anemics should avoid cold foods because of the energy it takes to digest them. Overworking an already taxed body. I’ll have to find that citation one day. But it seems reasonable, doesn’t it? Yeah, I’ll keep looking for that citation…
From a purely subjective position, is a cold salad or large glass of cold veggies more refreshing when you’re shivering cold or comfortably warm? A bowl of soup on a cold day is a word picture of what it means to be comforted and cared for.
- Herbs and spices can be used to take a basic few ingredients from savory to spicy to sweet-sour and more
- Unlike smoothies, soups can be chunky, noodley (yes, I know that’s not a real word), clear and light, or hearty. More entertaining than sipping from a blender cup, huh?
It really hasn’t gone away, but soup has made a comeback – or, better to say it has had a new spotlight put on it in recent years with the advent of souping.
Many proclaim that souping is the new juicing. It’s a warmer, friendlier way to ‘detox.’ At the most basic, that means simplifying
things for the body by taking a break from the fried, battered, sugared, and sauced. And no, those are not legitimate food groups. Even those aren’t regulars in your eating style, a few days of simple nutrition is rarely a wrong move.
Benefits of souping
Although he comes down on the juice side, Dave over at iFocusHealth explains how souping differs from juicing. There are all sorts of books and blogs and vids on the subject. Doctor Oz has a cleanse and so does Soupere and Splendid Spoon and Real Food Works in Philadelphia. From the table above, perhaps you will see a reason to put a souping program in your future. But if you’re not looking for a short-term therapeutic program, just eat soup. Because it’s good.
Basically, soup is (usually heated) water with protein and produce. Here’s a bit of food lore for you: In 18th century Paris, a man opened a new type of establishment, one that served soup to anyone with the money to pay. A sign outside invited “Come to me, all who labor in the stomach, and I will restore thee.” In French, that’s “ego restaurabo vos.” Fancy that, the word restaurant comes from the French verb meaning “to restore”. The proposed restorative: soup.
Stock, Broth, and Bone Broth
The starting point with every soup is the liquid. There are three basic starters:
1. Stock – bones, meat, cartilage simmered for hours. This produces a smooth, silky liquid rich with collagen, the stuff (mostly) women pay way too much for in the skin care aisle.
2. Broth – quickly simmered meat with or without vegetables and herbs. This produces a thin, light-tasting liquid; a produce and protein tea, if you will.
3. Bone Broth– Like stock but the cooking goes on for a day or two, not just a few hours. Bones are literally cooked to pieces; gelatin and minerals are extracted from them.
After centuries of use, someone discovered bone broth is good. Yay. Even though it’s trending, simmering the bones has always been a way to beef up the benefits of soup. According to Livestrong, bone broth helps reduce inflammation, improve digestion, and repair joints.
To the right is my chicken bone broth. I put a 3-quart pan of water on low; added the back, wing tips, and a few bones from a chicken that I’d roasted earlier in the day.
I let it simmer overnight then added the following for the last half hour that it cooked:
- pink Himalayan salt
- white pepper
- powdered rosemary
- fresh parsley
- dried oregano, thyme, and basil
It really does look like a thin gelatin, doesn’t it? If I’d let it go the rest of the day, I would’ve had a thicker, condensed gelatin, small in ounces but huge on flavor and nutrients. But I left well enough alone and put some into the freezer for later, some into the fridge for sooner, and some into another pan for a potato and kale soup.
For a well-rounded broth, you’ll want a blend of bones:
- Marrow is the tissue inside of bones in the legs, breast, joints, ribs, back and skull. It is high in protein, fats, and iron. These bones give flavor and richness.
- Cartilage is a type of tissue found cushioning joints. Good sources include poultry breastbone, neck bones, and the feet and bones of young animals. It is the source of gelatin and gives body to the broth.
You will want to add vinegar since it helps draw out more of the nutrients and minerals from the bones. Use the rendered fat rendered for frying or sautéing your garden-grown favorites.
Vegetarian broths? Certainly. Avoid root vegetables like beets and parsnips since extended cooking can create a bitter-sweet concentrated sugar
Instead of heading straight to the compost pile with those peels, stalks, tops and other unused parts of vegetables left on the cutting board:
- Look them over and remove blemishes and wilted bits
- Put in your cooking vessel of choice (as long as it has a good lid)
- Pour in fresh water to cover
- Simmer for a couple of hours
- In the last half hour or so, season with herbs and salt if you like
- Drink as a (very) light snack or put away as the starter for a soup or stew
For convenience, consider putting stock in an ice cube tray or some type of mold first. Then the frozen cubes can be stored in a freezer bag or freezer-safe container until needed.
It’s simple to make your own broth or stock. If you have food allergies like I do, especially a food that’s not on the top allergen food list, it’s a relief to have one less thing for which to scan labels. And call me cheap, but I don’t see any reason to pay 4 bucks for a few ounces of someone else’s bone broth. Thanks to the Nourished Kitchen, I have a new respect for the power and beauty of broth and stock.
Nuts into Soup
It was a little disappointing to find there’s no such thing as nut broth. But there is always nut soup. I love combining roasted acorn squash with sunflower seeds. I sometimes use coconut milk because it gives a creamier texture. Other ingredients I’ve used:
- nut butter (almond, sunflower)
- almond flour
- black pepper
- Himalayan salt
Those spice combinations really make the soup truly warming, especially at breakfast! Need more nutty ideas? Pinterest has a bunch of nutty recipes.
Cashew has become a new favorite on several scores (did you know it makes a vegan cheese?) Pureed cashew can set like a pudding: I was a little alarmed to see my latest soup serenely holding to the container when I wanted to pour some out for heating. Too many cashews create a very thick, very creamy texture. But looks pretty, doesn’t it? A wonderful protein and produce combination!
Although we tend to think of soup as the domain of vegetables, fruits more than hold their own. Consider:
- Apple, apricot, or pear blended with squash, onion and nuts
- apples and apple cider stirred into a beef stew
- parsnip, leek, and pear soup
Summer may be upon us week after next. When it’s hot out, hot soup can still work – millions of Koreans can’t be wrong.
But for a cooling break, there are many quick paths to a chilled soup featuring summer’s fruit harvest. The following may be just the thing:
- Watermelon Gazpacho, featuring cucumbers, bell peppers, and parsley
- Strawberry soup, featuring yogurt and whole lemon
I still remember the cherry soup that I had on a rainy summer’s day in Budapest years ago; even cold it brightened the day.
The Beauty of It All
Whether souping or simply enjoying soup, you have a palette of flavors, colors, tastes, and texture to explore. Unlike with smoothies, your teeth get to do something. And that’s important because the digestive process begins with chewing.
As your teeth begin breaking up food, enzymes are released in the mouth to aid the breakdown so what you swallow is soft, smoothie-like, instead of hard-on-the-digestion food chunks. Yes, chew each mouthful thoroughly. Your gut will thank you.
Because of its high-water content, soup
- helps you feel fuller longer than a salad can
- takes up more room in your stomach which also makes you feel full and satiated
- turns off ghrelin, the appetite and hunger hormone, sooner than eating a salad
- takes longer to leave the stomach
See the pattern? Eat well, eat less, feel satiated longer, avoid overeating – can healthy weight loss be far behind?
See the other pattern? Warm versus cold? Not to harp on the subject – and maybe you have a different take on this – but eating a salad or downing a smoothie when the temperature is below 50 is just not appealing. Ice cream, Yes; Cold Vegetables, No.
When the temperature is cold, the body has to work harder to stay warm. Consuming a cold drink triggers the thermic effect, which is an increase in body’s metabolic rate (the speed at which it breaks down food into its components for use throughout the body). Since it’s busy processing that a cold drink, there isn’t as much engery available for other things; like keeping warm on a cold day.
There’s something inherently satisfying in gazing at a steaming bowl of soup. Food at its simplest:
- produce – fruits, vegetables
- protein – meat, poultry, mushrooms, seafood, fish, nuts
- herbs and spices – countless ways to make something new of the same basic ingredients
- inexpensive – across the centuries and around the world, soup has taken scanty food supplies and stretched them into nourishment for more hungry mouths
- nourishing – studies show that starting the day with a bowl of soup leads to fewer calorie consumption through the day
I hope I’ve inspired you to create your own ‘wondrous, subtle and delicate’ masterpiece. Courtesy of Broth & Stock from the Nourished Kitchen and The Ultimate Soup Cleanse, below are a few ingredient suggestions.
Is souping really the new juicing? Share your soup and souping experience! If you enjoyed learning about soup and souping, share this article on your favorite social media channels.
Suggested Souping Ingredients by Type
- antioxidant produce
- cold water oily fish (tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies)
- monounsaturated fats (extra virgin olive oil, nuts, avocado)
- Adzuki bean
- Caraway seed
- Mung bean
- Dandelion greens
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Sweet potato
- Nettle tops
- Pea shoots
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