A lost tradition? Ten good reasons to make soup

A lost tradition? Ten good reasons to make soup
  • A faster pace of life, packed lunches for the office and even Instagram have almost relegated soups to culinary archeology

Alas, modern life is slowly depriving us of many things that made us feel good. And soup, once indispensable in every home, is one of them. A faster pace of life and packed lunches for the office have almost relegated soups to culinary archeology.

"In spite of being a staple dish, in most developed countries it is gradually losing its importance," said Yale historian Paul Freedman. "Also, with many houses having central heating, it's no longer of vital importance to fight the cold." He added that soup takes time to prepare.

"We are de-souping ourselves!" declares Toni Massanés, general manager of Fundación Alícia, one of the most prestigious culinary research centres in Europe.

He says it with sorrow and amazement. Soups have not only taken away a lot of hunger over the centuries - because they can be made with anything - but they also "are universal, since each culture has its own, highly valued soups, such as the Vietnamese pho, the Galician broth and the Russian borsch".

The problem is that we have become lazy and have lost the traditional knowledge of our own local recipes.

More reasons for their decline? Yes, a very ridiculous one: it is not a photogenic meal.

"On Instagram soup doesn't look as cool as other dishes," laments Massanés, who explains that its appearance has been a handicap since the times of 'nouvelle cuisine', which almost made soups disappear and used them as a garnish, as the base of a dish or in a small accompanying glass. An injustice that Fundación Alícia wants to correct.

To this end, it has brought out a book simply called Sopas (published in Spanish by Planeta Gastro), which offers a wide range of recipes - with traditional, ethnic, modern, cold, hot, salty and sweet soups - and explains tricks and delicious combinations in order to reconcile us with the humble spoon.

This has many advantages whichever way you look at it. Here are the first ten.

1. Versatility

If you don't have all the ingredients, or don't like the taste of something, it is easy to substitute it for something else or leave it out altogether.

The spices and fresh herbs allow a lot of variations and the basic elements (meat, pulses, vegetables) are usually interchangeable. "This makes recipes easy and should encourage anyone to try their hand at making soup," says Massanés.

2. Sustainability and thrift

Everything can go into a soup: the chicken carcasses, fish heads and bones, giblets, less-than-fresh vegetables, left-over pulses and even stale bread. "Soups are anti-waste," he says.

3. Variety

Even if you're not a fan of soup there are so many different varieties that you can't hate them all.

Made with meat, vegetables, pulses, served cold, served hot, creamy textures, with pasta, more or less chunky, sweet and sour, spicy... it's impossible to not find one (at least) to your taste.

4. 'Healing' power

In all cultures soups are attributed with both a healing and a preventive power.

"In China and Al-Andalus, recipe books from centuries ago proclaim their medicinal properties," says Massanés, adding, however, that science hasn't yet confirmed the claims.

Soup certainly hydrates because of its high water content and it contains many healthy elements infused from the ingredients such as salts, minerals and valuable proteins. For an example: the cooking water from chickpeas has enough protein to make a vegan mayonnaise.

Soup has traditionally been fed to the sick. In fact, the term restaurant - the first modern style ones opened around 1770 in Paris - derives from the French 'restauration', which means, in this context, a hot and restorative drink.

In these establishments they served broths and consommés "for the body and the soul" as something medicinal.

5. Concentrated flavour

"Biologically, we are adapted to perceive the taste of broths and soups as good for us," says the manager of Fundación Alícia, Toni Massanés.

Japanese miso soup, with a lot of umami (that intense taste so difficult to explain), the broths of Castile, chicken stock... many are a feast for our taste buds.

6. Soup can help you to slim

"If soups have the fat removed, they are usually highly recommended for weight loss," Massanés argues. Its high water content - which is what defines soup in comparison to a stew or some purées - is satiating. Also it contains fibre.

7. Suitable for 'lazy' people

Lack of time is one of the excuses for not making soup. In the book there are tricks and short cuts for everything. You can cook them over the weekend for the week ahead, use a pressure cooker or use frozen stock as a base. And why not use a shop-bought stock to which you can add the other ingredients to save time?

8. Comfort food

Eating soup makes us feel good and it warms us up. That is why it is one of the so-called comfort foods that make us happy inside and sometimes bring back fond memories. "For me, soups remind me of one my grandmother used to make which contained breadcrumbs, ground almonds and small pieces of meat," added Massanés.

9. For lovers of the exotic

For those who like ethnic foods, soups are just the thing. The book lists easy recipes from all continents that have recognisable flavours of their cuisine. "I love Thai hot and sour soup," he says.

10. No bugs

Although there are cold soups, the most common are those that have been boiled for a while.

"All the bacteria disappears," explains Massanés. "The water quality nowadays is very good but in olden times it wasn't. Soup, once it was boiled, became safe to eat."