Word to the Wise: Soup Words

There is no better time to indulge in a bowl of soup than during the cold winter months, which might be why January is National Soup Month. Made since prehistoric times, it seems that every culture around the world has some form of soup or stew that they call their own. Chicken noodle still typically tops the list of most popular soups.

Often times the go-to meal for the poor and impoverished, soups were often a great way to cook a good meal with whatever ingredients was on hand. Eventually, soups became more varied with high-class and labor-intensive varieties eventually making up their own course in a meal while those on a budget or in a rush could turn to canned and dried soup mixes for a quick and easy bite. Soups are made with ingredients ranging from fruits to vegetables to meats and can be served both cold and hot. Many Asian countries also serve soup as a dessert rather than as a main or appetizer course. A comfort food for many, soup has become a cornerstone of many cuisines.


Seafood and soup lovers can come together over a bowl of bisque, the smooth creamy soup made from crustaceans like lobsters, langoustine, crab, shrimp, and crayfish. The French created this soup initially, but many today also identify it with the New England region of North America where it has become a staple of many fishing communities. Over the years, some have also referred to cream-based soups that do not contain seafood as bisques, but these soups are more accurately known as creams - i.e. cream of mushroom, cream of celery soups - though varieties with squash, tomato, mushroom, and red pepper are still colloquially known as bisques.

A shrimp bisque. While most traditional bisque recipes call for seafood, particularly crustaceans, vegetable varieties have also evolved.

There are two theories on how the name of this soup came about. Some believe that the term bisque was an altered form of Biscaye or Biscay, the name of a bay off the coast of France where many sea creatures used to make the soup were harvested. Others believe that it has the same root was the word biscuit from the French phrase meaning “twice-cooked.” Both the bread of a biscuit and the shellfish used in the soup had to be cooked twice to be made edible. Spelled as bisk initially in England, the term meant a stewed, thickened soup in English from the time it was introduced in the 1640s but eventually came to mean specifically a soup with crustacean shortly after.

Bisque is one of the major divisions of soup has coined by the French. In traditional French cuisine, clear soups are either bouillon - typically a savory broth - or consomme - a type of soup broth or stock clarified with egg whites. Purees are vegetable soups thickened with starch; bisques are pureed shellfish thickened with cream, cream soups are thickened with bechamel sauce, and veloutes are thickened using eggs, butter and or cream. Over the years, some vegetable soups thickened with cream shifted into the bisque category.

Seafood bisques were created as a way of using up crustaceans that were not good enough to send to market or might not sell well despite being perfectly edible. Bisques have been traditionally served in two-handled cups on saucers. When colonists moved to New England, they found bisque as a great way to punch up the variety of seafood found in the area, predominantly oysters as initial settlers thought lobsters were just giant ocean-dwelling bugs. It wasn't until the mid-1800s that lobster was seen as edible.

Eventually, lobsters made their way to the dinner table and were so common that many servants had it put in their contracts that they wouldn’t eat lobster or shellfish more than twice a week. It wasn’t until the 1800s when chefs discovered lobsters taste better if cooked alive rather than dead that lobster started to become a delicacy and lobster bisque began making its way onto the menus of fancy restaurants, like Delmonicos. Bisques still remain a staple food item in restaurants up and down the East Coast, particularly in New England. Those who want a good seafood bisque but are health conscious are best trying a crab bisque as crab meat is one of the healthiest shellfish for human consumption.


One of the staple dishes of Eastern Europe and Russia, this soup of Slavic origin has many varieties throughout the region it calls home. However, most of those in English-speaking countries are most familiar with the Ukrainian variety that consists of beetroots that give it a unique red color. Borscht can come in a variety of colors based on its ingredients including green sorrel-based borscht or white rye-based borscht. A national dish in various countries and part of ritual meals in several religious traditions, borscht has a long and varied history, often following the movements of the people who call it their own.

The word borscht - also sometimes spelled borsch, borsht, or, bortsch, comes from the Proto-Indo European word bhr̥sti meaning “point, stubble.” This word came into the Proto-Slavic language as bŭrščǐ meaning “hogweed,” but specifically the common hogweed or Heracleum sphondylium that was originally the principal ingredient in the soup. The word then morphed into Slavic languages like Russian and Ukrainian as борщ (borshch) while Jewish populations in the same region adopted the word as באָרשט‎ (borsht) in Yiddish. It is through its Yiddish antecedents that the word first entered English.

Originally, hogweed-based borscht was made when the crop was harvested in May. The roots were stewed with meat while the leaves, stems, and umbels were chopped and covered with water then fermented for a few days. The concoction was then used to make the tart-tasted early borscht dishes. A dish of the poorer classes, adding mushrooms to borscht was often see as a use of excess. In fact, several idioms developed around the soup such as the Polish expression “cheap like borscht” and the Yiddish “two mushrooms into borscht,” meaning that someone is overspending.

While the wealthy ate borscht - in fact, the first written borscht recipes are for Polish and LIthuanian aristocracy - they used exotic foods like lemon, almonds, eggs, and fish. By the 1800s, rural parts of Eastern Europe were starting to have access to wider varieties of foods like barberries, currants, gooseberries, cranberries, celery, and plums. Green borscht varieties evolved in Russia and other places east of Poland because the sorrel that made borscht green was more prevalent there than hogweed while cabbage borscht made of fresh cabbage or sauerkraut became popular as an alternative to the traditional hogweed elsewhere.

A green or zeleniy borscht. also sometimes known as sorrel soup.

While beets had been grown in Slavic countries since ancient times, only the leaves were used in cuisine. The tough, bitter-tasting root was not seen for human consumption. The first recording of a sweet, red-colored beetroot appeared in the 1100s, but this food did not spread to Eastern Europe until the 1500s. Beet and horseradish became a popular dish in Polish and Yiddish cuisine and beetroot pickling took off in the Slavic region as well. While it is unknown when exactly the idea came to try making a borscht with beetroot, the first recipe for borscht with the vegetable comes in the early 1800s and was extremely popular by the middle of that century.

Around the time beetroot borscht was gaining popularity, the populations of the the Slavic region were facing a massive dispersion. Russian was expanding its empire, leading to the dish expanding from Finland to Central Asia and even Alaska. Those fleeing the expansion of Russia to France and German found that the dish was initially scoffed at as peasant food until the higher ups in France and Germany learned the dish was a favorite of the Russian tsars. Those fleeing Russian oppression also migrated in waves to North America - largely because they were persecuted religious minorities - and brought their borscht recipes with them. Mennonites, Russian Jews, and refugees from other Slavic countries soon made red borscht popular in America.

A white or bialy borscht, which is often eaten as a breakfast dish on Easter in Poland.

As the concept of the family vacation began to spring up with the advent of the automobile, many of these Jewish families found they were unwelcome or banned from staying in various hotels because of Anti-Semitism. As a result, they began flocking to resorts in the Catskills that were run by and for Jewish people, often featuring Jewish entertainment and traditional Yiddish foods. This region became known as the “borscht belt,” especially because borscht was one of the most common and consumed menu items. Borscht was a soup that could be served cold, a relief in the heat of the summer. Borscht also made its way into outer space when the USSR space program created a version of the still popular dish as food for Soviet cosmonauts.

Following the fall of the Soviet Union, many Slavic countries began to try and take back borscht as a part of their own cultural identity. The USSR had tried to reframe borscht as a uniquely Russian - or specifically Soviet - dish that united all of the Slavic peoples. However, countries like Poland, the Ukraine, and Lithuania, as well as Ashkenazi Jews wanted to reclaim their own versions of the soup as it served as a national and ethnic dish for them. A cultural icon in many countries to this day, many countries have veered away from the recipes standardized by government-sponsored cookbooks in the days of the USSR and have gone back to exploring traditional and local ingredients.


Along with stock one of the major bases for a variety of dishes in cuisine across the world, broth can be eaten alone but most of the time is used to make anything from soup to gravy to sauces to stews. Once a long, time-consuming process, broth is now easily available in a variety of flavors from the average grocery store.

The term broth comes from the Proto-Indo European root word bhreu meaning “to heat, boil, bubble.” This word entered a variety of languages, including Irish as broth and Gaelic as brot but it is through the Proto-Germanic bruthan that the modern English term comes from. The Proto-Germanic bruthan meaning also to heat, boil or bubble but also became synonymous with the liquid in which something had been boiled. This became the Old English broþ, specifically meaning “liquid in which flesh is boiled” before becoming the modern “broth.”

The term “flesh” is not necessarily meaning skin but rather meat and bones, which were used as the traditional starters of broths. Traditionally, animal bones were boiled in cooking pots for long periods to extract the flavor and nutrients within and creating the broth. Sometimes, the meat was still on these bones but not always. Early cooks also learned that the type of animal bone could impact the flavor of the broth with white meats, red meats, and fish producing different flavors. Vegetables could also be used to make broth and in East Asia, kelp was a popular broth starter making the soup base known as dashi. To refine broths, chefs would add egg whites to add clarity. The French refer to these clarified broths as consomme. Long before the boullion cube was invented to add flavor to dishes, broth was also something chefs and cooks used to give dishes a little extra kick of flavor.

A French tomato consomme

While the terms broth and stock are used interchangeably and have been since the 1970s, many will still draw a sharp distinction between the two. While broths can be made by animal meat and bones, stocks are said to be purely made from bone and therefore have more gelatin and a thicker texture. Stocks are usually cooked longer for more intense flavor and stock is left unseasoned for use in other recipes while broth can be eaten alone. In Britain, broth is further distinguished as having solid pieces of meat, fish, or vegetables while stock is purely a liquid base.


Another soup associated with New England and the eastern coast of Canada, chowders are typically made with seafood though dishes with corn, tomatoes, and potatoes are popular in some regions. Part soup, part stew, this dish started out as a popular meal for seafarers and then eventually made it into the ports and then even further across the country. In fact, one of the biggest conundrums for New Englanders moving west was how to make the dish without fresh clams, often leading to the substitute of beef, chicken, and vegetables as primary ingredients.

The origin of the word chowder is somewhat obscure, though there are several theories on how the word came to be. Many etymologists hold that the word’s origins lie in the Proto-Indo European root word kele meaning “warm” and then came into Latin as calidus meaning “warm, hot.” The word calidus also gave Latin the term calidarium meaning “hot bath” and eventually the Late Latin term caldaria or “cooking pot.

Around the 1100s, the word came into Old French as chaudière, meaning “a pot,” typically a cooking pot where various ingredients were thrown to make soups and stews. By 1751, the term was being used in American English as chowder referring to a type of thick fish soup cooked by French sailors aboard their ships. This first use of chowder may not have realized that the term applied to the pot not the ingredients cooked within it.

Others believe that there are other sources for the word after the Late Latin term caldaria. This term also gave birth to the word caldeirada, used in Portuguese, Galician, and Basque languages to refer to a type of fish and shellfish stew cooked in a similarly named pot.

The French would chaudron meaning “cauldron” is another possible source for the word as these stews were cooked in cauldrons. The term chodier also appeared as a term for cooking pots in the French Creole language of the Caribbean Islands then colonized by France while Quebecois French had the word chaudiere meaning “a bucket.” The French coastal regions of Vendee and Charente-Maritime already had a thick fish soup known as chaudree or chauderee. Perhaps even further afield is the term jowter, used in Cornwall and Devon to refer to fishmongers that is pronounced as with a “ch” instead of a “j.”

However the word originated, it is believed that French and English sailors first developed the dish more than 250 years ago, making it with fish and hardtack, thickened biscuits designed to survive long periods at sea. The dish was being enjoyed on land as early as the mid-1700s when Tobias Smollett makes a reference to it in one of his novels. Chowder became particularly popular in New England and the eastern coast of Canada because many of the ingredients were readily available and the hearty soup was a good dish for a cold day. Clams were among the most popular main ingredients for the dish that was often left simmering by the sea while New Englanders worked.

Corn and potato chowder

Typical chowder ingredients include cream or milk mixed with potatoes, sweet corn, and some fish or shellfish like haddock, clams, prawns, or shrimp. Other varieties use milk and a roux instead of cream. Regions of the world including Australia Bermuda, Coney Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Manhattan, Minorca, New Jersey, New York, New Zealand, North Carolina, Illinois, and Rhode Island have their own distinct varieties. As people moved westward across North America, ingredients were modified to suit locally available foods like salmon, corn, and chicken though the advent of canned and bottled clams saw a resurgence in the traditional New England recipes.


One of the most well-known gold soup varieties, gazpacho is a dish most commonly associated with Spain and Portugal but specifically the province of Andalusian gazpacho. In fact, many consider the proper name for this soup to be Andalusian gazpacho. Widely eaten during the summer to refresh and cool down during the Mediterranean heat, gazpacho has seen many changes since it was originally developed in Andalusia.

There are two theories about how the word gazpacho came into the Spanish language. Some believe it is descended from the Latin gazophylacium meaning “treasure-chest in a church,” an allusion to the wide variety of ingredients that go into the soup. This Latin term may have influenced the Mozarabic word gazpelağo that in turn influenced the word gazpacho. Others believe that it may be related to another Spanish term, caspicias, meaning “remnants” as the soup was often made with whatever ingredients were readily available at the time.

Gazpacho is believed to be originated around the time the Romans conquered the Iberian Peninsula, bringing with them ingredients like Roman breads, olive oil, and garlic into modern-day Spain and Portugal. This also made it possible for vinegars to be made in the region. The soup was further developed in the region of Andalusia, particularly in cities like Cordoba, Seville, and Granada. Stale bread, garlic, olive oil, salt, and a white vinegar. This initial gazpacho might be more similar to another Spanish cold soup known as ajoblanco.

Different ingredients can produce different colored gazpachos.

The traditional form and color of gazpacho changed during the 1800s when tomatoes from the New World became more readily available in Spanish cuisine. Rather than the white or yellow variety that was common with the traditional ingredients, gazpacho began to take on a more pink or red hue. It was this version with the tomato included that quickly spread internationally, though traditional varieties are still made. Instead of tomatoes and bread, ingredients like avocados, cucumbers, parsley, watermelon, grapes, meat stock, and seafood can be used to give gazpacho both unique colors and flavorings as well as turn it into different courses with any meal. Still, most traditional gazpacho recipes will include stale bread, tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, garlic, olive oil, white wine vinegar, water, and salt.

To avoid foam and keep a smooth consistency, vegetables are ground with a mortar and pestle. Before refrigeration, the soup was left in an unglazed earthenware pot to cool by evaporation with water added now and then to keep the consistency. Traditional gazpacho garnishes include hard boiled eggs, the type of chopped ham known as salmorejo, chopped almonds, orange segments, green pepper, onion, tomatoes, cucumbers, cumin with mint, and local meats, particularly ham or pork.


While largely made as a stew, goulash can also be made as a soup depending on how much liquid is contained within it and how long the dish is cooked for. Widespread throughout Central Europe, this dish is not only considered to be native to Hungary but also one of the country’s national dishes. Of course, countries from Austria to Slovenia have their own varieties as do places like the Philippines, U.S., and Canada were it was introduced. Goulash is a dish medieval in its origins but still immensely popular throughout the world.

Traditional Hungarian goulash

The term goulash comes from the words gulya meaning “a herd of cattle” and gulyás, which can mean “herdsman, shepherd, or cowboy.” Over time, the name evovled into gulyáshús, meaning a meat dish largely prepared by herdsmen. The official title for the dish in modern Hungarian is Gulyásleves meaning “Goulash soup” though similar soups like bográcsgulyás also exist. While many today might classify goulash as a type of stew because of how it is prepared, the dish is very much a soup in the Hungarian mindset.

During the medieval era, it was common for people to use every part of the animal, especially the poor, and goulash evolved as an easy dish for herdsmen and shepherds to make while out in the field doing their work. Since meat in particular was hard to come by, any meat that could be gleaned off of an animal was used to make the dish. These shepherds spread the dish across Central Europe as they took livestock to the major cattle markets in places like Moravia, Nuremberg, Venice, and Vienna.

Czech-style goulash, often known as Prague goulash.

Originally a dish associated with sheep and cattle, pork and lamb have also become traditional meets for goulash. Other common ingredients include garlic, caraway seed, bell pepper, wine, salt, and vegetables like carrots, parsley root, green peppers, celery, and potatoes. Chili peppers, bay leaves, and

thyme are common seasonings. Goulas is also sometimes served over a bowl of egg noodles known as csipetke.

Hungary has several different native goulash varieties that incorporate additional ingredients like sauerkraut, sour cream, kidney beans, smoked pork, vermicelli noodles, lemon juice, and red wine. Outside Hungary, countries like Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia developed their own varieties after introduction to the dish by Hungarian herdsmen. Further afield, a type of goulash from the Philippines known as Philippine caldereta was brought to the area via SPain and incorporates beef, pork, or goat as the main meat with vegetables including onions, bell peppers, carrots, green peas, garlic, and potatoes. Liver paste is often added to thicken up the recipe.

American-style goulash

Goulash has been a staple of American cookbooks since at least 1914 and was most likely brought to North America by immigrants from Central Europe. Instead of egg noodles, elbow macaroni became the preferred pasta to pour goulash over. Similarly, the fresh tomatoes were largely replaced in America with tomato sauce, soup, or paste while the traditional meats were largely replaced with cubed steak, ground beef, or hamburger.


Vegetable soups abound around the world, especially as many soups were dishes made for the poor who couldn’t always afford to literally put meat on the table. Italy’s vegetable soup, known as minestrone is one of the most popular varieties of vegetable soup, easily available in canned varieties in grocery stores around the world. Of course, the minestrone found in a can might seem unfamiliar to those who first consumed the dish prior to the establishment of the Roman Empire.

Oddly enough, the word minestrone has the same root as the word minister, which was a Latin term meaning “Inferior, servant, priest’s assistant.” The Latin word minister gave rise to the word ministrare which meant “to serve, attend, wait upon.” The Latin ministrare became the Italian minestrare meaning “to serve, prepare.” When the word minestrare was added to the Latin suffix one meaning “soup, pottage,” it became combined into the word minestrone. The term first appeared in English around 1871 as a term for Italian-made vegetable soup.

The history of minestrone date to before the establishment of the Roman civilization when the tribes known as the Latins lived in what would become Roman. The residents of the area at a largely vegetarian diet because that was what was available to them at the time. Staples of the Latin diet included onions, lentils, cabbage, garlic, beans, mushrooms, carrots, asparagus, and turnips. Often times, these vegetables were added to a porridge of spelt wheat flour cooked in salt water known as pulte. By 100 BCE, the Roman empire had conquered the region and most of Italy, which saw the introduction of new and varied food products to the area diet.

Minestrone from the Liguria region around Genoa.

One ancient Roman health fad was that simple, “frugal” diets were prefered - frugal being a word that to the Romans meant both “cheap” and “made with cereal grains.” Thick vegetable soups remained a staple of the Roman diet and one of the first vegetable soup recipes was published in a cookbook in 30 CE by Marcus Apicius. The recipe calls for a minestrone-style soup made with farrow, chickpeas, fava beans, onions, garlic, lard, and mixed greens. As Roman diets changed, trimmings like cooked brains and wine were added to beef up the soup.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, minestrone remained a popular food in the cuisine of what would become Italy. The introduction of potatoes and tomatoes from the New World in the mid-1500s again changed the face of the recipe with most traditional minestrone dishes including these two ingredients that wouldn’t have been available previously. One of the reasons minestrone survived as a staple of Italian cuisine was because it was part of the country’s cucuina povera or cuisine of the poor. Ingredients were largely what was on hand, a good way to use leftovers rather than a dish made for its own sake.

Minestra, a variety of minestrone made in Malta.

As Italian immigrants moved throughout the world, they brought their minestrone recipes with them and spread the dish. Still, those traveling to Italy today will still find some unique minestrone varieties depending on where they travel. The region of Liguria is known for minestrone alla Genovese, a type of minestrone that is known for relying more on herbs and includes pesto as one of the ingredients. The country and island of Malta also has its own minestrone variety known as minestra, possibly descended from the Roman recipe. This version features a thick tomato paste known as kunserva, potatoes, cauliflower, and kohlrabi, also known as German turnip.


A traditional soup from Vietnam that has recently become popular across the world, pho came to America through returning soldiers and fleeing refugees during the Vietnam War. Like many dishes now considered traditional Asian fare, pho is actually the result of colonial effects on more traditional dishes due to the arrival of new foods and influence of new cultures on cuisine. Like with many dishes, the type of pho served in Vietnam might also depend on what part of the country one is in with Hanoi and Saigon developing their own distinct varieties of the dish.

The word pho has two possible origins. Some believe that pho is a shortened form of lục phở, a Vietnamese corruption of the Chinese term ngưu nhục phấn meaning “cow meat noodles.” Commonly sold by Chinese immigrants in Hanoi, this dish may have been one of the precursors to pho along with xáo trâu, a traditional Vietnamese dish often served in Hanoi around the same time. Others believe that pho is the result of Vietnamese attempts to pronounce a traditional French dish that was brought by the new French colonists to the area. The French style beef stew pot-au-feu is very similar to cháo phở, a similar beef variety of pho. Eating beef was somewhat uncommon in Vietnam before the French arrived as the Vietnamese prefered to eat pork and chicken as meat while using cattle for beasts of burden. One theory holds that the Vietnamese were attempting to mimic French soldiers using the slang term feu to order the beef soup because the Vietnamese were interested in trying the foreign dish.

Considered by many as a traditional Vietnamese dish, pho actually probably didn’t come about until sometime between 1900 and 1907 in northern Vietnam. This was around the same time the country was being colonized by France as Indochine or French Indochina as it was known in English. Factors that influenced the creation of pho include the higher availability of beef the French brought into the area to satisfy their own culinary needs, the use of leftover parts of beef cattle by Chinese and Vietnamese workers to make food for their own, and the popularity of beef dishes also being cooked by Chinese workers who had been brought into Vietnam by the French, many of whom came from provinces like Yunnan and Guangdong known for their beef dishes.

Pho street vendors in Hanoi. Pho vendors were typically brawny men because of all the equipment they needed to carry.

While Georges Dumoutier’s extensive guide to Vietnamese cuisine for the French did not include any references to pho when it was published in 1907, the dish was being sold by street vendors as early as 1913. Served on mobile kitchens by men carrying poles known as gánh phở, the dish began as a street food sold primarily at dawn and dusk. By the late 1910s and early 1920s, the first pho stands were opening up in Hanoi.

As more stationary restaurants serving pho began available, the amount of mobile street vendors cooking and selling pho as they went began to decline in the 1930s, around the same time the dish started appearing in recipe books. To make their pho more unique and drum up more business, many restaurant owners in Vietnam began experimenting with different kinds of pho in the 1920s. Many of these varieties didn’t manage to enter mainstream culture, but varieties with raw beef and chicken were successful. Chicken pho in particularly took off around 1939 because there were restrictions on when beef could be sold at markets.

Northern style pho

The arrival of the Vietnam war changed many things for the people of the country and their cuisine was one of them. When the partition of Vietnam occurred in 1954, more than a million people fled from Hanoi in the North to South Vietnam. With them, they brought pho and other traditionally northern Vietnamese recipes. Soon pho was one of many foods seeing newfound success in the south. Pho still remained popular in the North with many pho restaurants nationalized.

While South Vietnam adopted pho, the cuisine of South Vietnam also changed many of the ingredients and styles of the dish available. Mung bean sprouts, culantro, cinnamon basil, Hoisin sauce, hot chili sauce, and other ingredients more popular in the South began making their way into pho. When the U.S. began restricting meat during the subsidy period following the Vietnam War, a type of meatless pho known as pilotless pho was introduced. Shortages on foodstuffs like meat and rice during this period saw the introduction of bread and cold rise as a side dish, creating the modern-day practice of dipping fried dough known as quẩy in Pho.

Southern style pho

Following the war, refugees from Vietnam moved to countries like the U.S., Canada, and Australia, bringing with them their dish. The first pho restaurant opened in California in 1980, though by the 1990s the number of pho restaurants in the U.S. would number in the hundreds. As Vietnam-U.S. relations improved, the number of pho restaurants and Vietnamese eateries in the U.S. began to increase.

By 2007, the word pho had entered into the Oxford English Dictionary. Literally dozens of regional variations of pho still abound in Vietnam with many ingredient differences still seen between north and south. Pho has also returned to its original street vendor market in many areas. While Vietnam is once again reunited as a country, there still is a difference opinion over whether the pho made in the country's North or South is the best. The globalization of pho means that there are many more people willing to chime in on the great pho debate.


A dish mankind has been consuming for thousands of years, soup has gone from a simple food often used to feed the poorer classes to both haute cuisine and big business. Soup is a $1.1 billion-a-year industry in the U.S. alone with the country consuming some 10 billion bowls of soup each year. Many women in the court of Louis XI believed soup was important to their beauty regiments as it didn’t require facial muscles to eat while Napoleon felt that soup “makes the soldier.” Soup has even become iconic pop art thanks to the likes of Andy Warhol.

The term soup comes from the Proto-Indo European word seue meaning “to take liquid” and then came into the Proto-Germanic as sup. After interacting with Germanic tribes, the term was adopted by the Romans into the Late Latin suppa meaning “bread soaked in broth” and by the 1200s was being used in French as the word soupe meaning “soup, broth.” The word spelled as soupe entered the English language but was being spelled as soup by at least the 1650s.

Men take a meal at a soup kitchen during the Great Depression. Soup kitchens had been operating in the U.S. since the 1870s but became particularly needed in the 1930s. Al Capone even sponsored one in Chicago.

The first soup kitchen was attested from 1839 as a way the Protestant clergy were attempting to reach out to those who were victims of the Potato Famine. However, these soup kitchens only served those who were members of the Protestant Church of Ireland, a branch of the Church of England. This brand of requiring conversation for food became known as Souperism. As a result, Protestant clergymen were known by the slang term soupers as early as 1854 and those Irish who chose to convert over starvation were said to have “taken the soup.”

The phrase from soup to nuts first appeared in 1910 while the concept of a vehicle that has been souped up to increase horsepower dates from 1921. By 1929, the phrase primordial soup was being used and in the 1990s, the television program Seinfeld introduced the pop culture phrase “no soup for you!” The term alphabet soup refers to administrations that use a wide variety of acronyms while HTML code that is poorly made has been nicknamed tag soup. The phrase duck soup means a task that is particularly easy while one who finds themselves in a bad situation is said to be in the soup.

An illustration of how fine Parisian restaurants made their turtle soup.

Archaeological evidence indicates that humans were eating soup as far back as 20,000 BCE. Some of the earliest types of soup were made with hot rocks inserted into water to make it boil. Waterproof vessels made of bark and reeds were used before clay vessels made making soup easier. When the first restaurants began to emerge in France in the 1500s, soups were among the most popular menu items and many early French restaurants sold soups and nothing else. By the 1700s, popular cook books had entire sections devoted to the various soups that could be made at home.

Long before the commercial soup industry began, people were already trying to find ways to easily transport and make their favorite soup recipes. The first portable soup was created in the 1700s by boiling seasoned meat until it turned into a thick, resinous syrup that could be stored for months and then revived when boiled in water. The advent of canning in the 1800s not only made soup easier to transport but also saw the arrival of some of the first ready-to-eat foods. The Campbell Soup Company invented condensed soup in 1897 which allowed soup to be made by just adding hot water or milk. Beyond canned soups, another type of instant soups are the dry varieties

The bouillon cube is considered the first ever dried soup as earlier meat extracts were a liquid extract. Bouillon developed in either the late 1600s or early 1700s as part of the French soup craze but didn’t become mass produced until the early 1900s. Bouillon is used now not just to make soups but also to season a wide variety of foods. In 1958, Japanese developers created instant ramen noodles that allowed for the first dry instant soups to be made. Additions such as seasonings, dehydrated vegetables and meats soon made more variety of instant dry soups available. These treats spread first across East Asia and then were adopted in the Western world, remain a staple of the diet of many students worldwide.


Similar to soups, stews are also a mix of liquid and various ingredients that are cooked over the and typically served warm. Like soups, there are a variety of stews made in cultures around the world and, like soups, many traditional and ethnic soups have a lot in common with other varieties around the world. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but those with a decent amount of culinary knowledge will insist that soups and stews are two very different types of food indeed. So, what separates a soup from a stew?

The word stew is a little bit more obscure in origin. The earliest etymologists can definitely trace the word is to the Old French estuver meaning “to have a hot bath, plunge into a bath, stew.” This Old Frech word may came from the Vulgar Latin term extufare meaning “evaporate,” itself from the Latin ex meaning “out” and tufus meaning “vapor, steam.” The Latin tufus was borrowed from the Greek typhos meaning “smoke.” However, any origins of the word after its Old French are more conjecture than fact. Eventually, the arrival of Old French via the Norman invasion turned the term estuver into English as stew, a verb meaning “to bathe in a steam bath” in the early 1300s.

Apparently, the English drew a similarity between submerging themselves for long periods in hot baths and submerging food ingredients into a steaming pot for a long time, so around the 1300s the term stew also became a term for a “vessel for cooking.” The term stew was also used as a term for a room where heated bathing took place around the same time. The fact that these heated public bathing rooms were often used as brothels meant that stew was also medieval slang for a brothel. The first time a stew is specifically recorded as “stewed meat with vegetables” comes around 1756 by the time soups and stews were becoming a more socially acceptable part of a meal in the upper classes.

Residents of Brunswick County, Va., make the local specialty, Brunswick stew, on the Fourth of July. First made in 1828 during a local camping trip, the original recipe called for squirrel meat but pork has largely replaced squirrel as the main ingredient. Acorns were also a traditional garnish.

Like soups, stews have been made since ancient times with the earliest archaeological evidence coming from a fish stew made in Japan. The Scythians apparently made stews according to Greek historian Herodotus and tribes in the South American Amazon made turtle stews using the shell of the turtle itself. Roman cookbooks dating to 400 CE have recipes for stews and Le Viander, the oldest cookbook in the French language, has various stew and ragout recipes. The French also developed various stews including blanquettes, bouillabaisse, and fricassees.

So, what makes a soup and what makes a stew? It's all in the cooking method. Soups are typically made relatively quickly while stews are left “to stew” over long periods of time. Soups are typically more focused on liquid while stews have less liquid and more focus on other ingredients. In addition to using less liquid, stews often use physically larger ingredients than soups. In a soup, the goal is for the ingredients to flavor the broth while stews are more aimed at the broth flavoring the ingredients. Soups are typically cooked uncovered while stews are typically left to simmer in covered pots for long periods. And while not a hard and fast rule, stews are more likely to be poured over another dish like noodles, mashed potatoes, polenta, rice, and grains than soups.

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