Soup’s On! around the world

By Catharine Kaufman

Soup has truly evolved from its primitive beginnings, which coincided with the very origins of cooking to a pop cultural phenomenon. Soup has entered the culinary worlds of movies (The Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup”), television (“Seinfeld’s” recalcitrant “Soup Nazi”), art (Andy Warhol’s mammoth Campbell’s Soup cans), and the literary world (“Stone Soup” and Jack Canfield’s inspirational series of “Chicken Soup for the Various Souls”).

Soup has undergone remarkable transformations from feeding the hungry unemployed as an emblem of The Great Depression, to today’s mainstream restaurants specializing in eclectic liquid recipes.

Since January is National Soup Month, we celebrate the mighty soup’s powers to ease colds and the flu, and warm the cockles of the hearts of those who come inside from a winter wonderland playground.

Jewish Penicillin

Chicken soup has been a miracle cure for all that ails you since Biblical times. The Ancient Egyptians prescribed the broth as a cure for the common cold. A bowl of homemade chicken soup is still a favorite flu-buster sure to ease a ticklish throat, open those swollen sinuses, and replenish lost fluids from sneezing marathons.

Chicken and matzo ball soup has transcended religious and cultural boundaries into the gustatory mainstream from delis and diners to upscale eateries offering riffs on the classic with kreplachs (Jewish wontons), potato dumplings, assorted root veggies and spices such as ginger and lemon verbena.

Soup Du Jour

From France we have enlivened our soup repertoire with liquid bliss from clear broths (bouillons and consommés) and thick or creamy ones (lobster bisques and vegetable purees) to divine stews (bouillabaisse) and classic French Onion. Other regional soups include haricots verts (green bean), chestnut, pumpkin and garlic. French soups are all loaded with seasonal herbs and bursting with joie de vivre.

Mamma Mia!

Some Mediterranean faves are hearty and rustic pasta e fagioli, (tomato broth with pasta and beans), vegetarian minestrone, Italian sausage and seafood cioppino. But the most beloved broth is the Italian Wedding Soup, a recipe with roots in ancient Rome, “marrying” robust flavors of beef and pork meatballs, aged cheeses, chopped escarole in a rich chicken broth. The name was probably derived from the protein load this soup packs providing fortification for the wedding night.

Chinese Chowders

While many Asian broths have become nicely assimilated into American cuisine, like wonton, hot and sour, egg drop, shark fin and sizzling rice, other authentic recipes are virtual unknowns in the mainstream soup scene. Some exotics include, pig’s organ and Buddha Jumps over the Wall, a delicacy once used to entice monks to cross over to the carnivorous world. For sweet palates try some dessert soups like Sai Mai Lo of pearl tapioca, coconut and evaporated milk), and Hasma (a sweet appetizing blend — yah, right — of dried frog fallopian tubes).

College Cuisine

Ramen has been the survival soup for thousands of college-dorm dwellers throughout the land. Cheap and easy to whip up in minutes, creative students can concoct at least 30 versions for a change-up every day of the month. Toss in fermented cabbage and chili flakes for Korean Ramen. For a Louisiana gumbo, blend in Andouille sausage, shrimp, crab and okra. Want Italian? Use a tomato-based broth and chunks of eggplant. Exotic Thai versions, like Tom Yum, keep flu and colds from the dorm door with the flavors of curry, coconut milk, fish stock, lemon grass and kaffir lime.

Spicy Soothing Chicken Soup

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