Soup, glorious soup!

Nothing offsets the cold like a steaming bowl of soup. Which is why the meal you eat with a spoon is the backbone of Canadian winter nutrition.  We loves our soup, we does!

In fact, soup is what you’d call a growth industry.

When it comes to soup-consuming, Canada leads the way, globally.

I’m presuming that they’re referring only to pre-made soups, but (measured in USD), the ‘soups’ segment of the Canadian market is projected to be valued at $1.08 billion dollars for 2023.  Compare that to second place soup-slurping Indonesia with $9,376 million USD being spent on soup. According to Restobiz, the Official Website of Canadian Restaurant and Foodservice News, the Canadian soup sector is expected to grow by almost three per cent this year. We’re ordering soup more frequently when we’re out, and not just as a starter or a side. 

Soup, glorious soup!

In recent years, choices were often limited to a wallpaper paste passing itself off as mushroom soup or a can-to-table cream of tomato. Other options routinely included a clam chowder that was only rumoured to harbour a clam. Today you’re likely to find highly spiced squash soups or a gem-like beet pureé soup. And then there’s pho!  Pho has become destination dining. According to Restobiz, the single biggest sector of the burgeoning soup market are Asian soups. Ramen is no longer the purview of destitute students. Vancouver’s West End is a ramen mecca. At any hour of the day or night, you’ll see long queues of young people lined up for some of the more celebrated ramen restaurants.

Mind you, those cellophane wrapped instant ramen meals – convenient though they may be – are something to be aware of. Sure, they’re tasty, but they rely upon an alphabet of preservatives and flavour enhancers.  It’s not surprising that packaged ramen contains MSG, but there’s another ingredient to consider. Tertiary butylhydroquinone – more commonly known as TBHQ – is the preservative that allows that package of instant ramen to sit on your shelf since the days of the first J. Lo/Affleck courtship.  TBHQ won’t kill you – it’s considered safe in small doses – but chronic exposure may take you down the path to liver enlargement, an increased risk of lymphoma, and may even lead to neurological damage. The thing is, if you eat instant ramen, there’s a good chance you eat a lot of instant ramen. They don’t sell it in case lots at Costco without good reason. Heads up!

… a fridge-clearing vegetable soup …

Photo by Gaelle Marcel

Which brings us to the subject of homemade soup. I would certainly perish without homemade soup. There’s a condition known as marasmus – a deficiency of all macronutrients – and given my general kitchen ennui when cooking for one, I’m pretty sure I’d succumb to marasmus were it not for soup. I make at least three pots of soup a week. One will be a fridge-clearing vegetable soup; one is likely to be pureé based – say, carrot or parsnip –  another will be some intriguing concoction I stumbled upon. Of course, I make way too much. There’s a jar of soup destined for my son cooling on the counter. It’s a red lentil soup that’s become an instant family favourite.

I’ve put the recipe up on my website if you’d like to try it. Click here for the recipe.

I think of soup as the jazz of the kitchen.

All of these soup statistics don’t take into account all that made-from-scratch soup simmering on the nation’s stove tops. I think of soup as the jazz of the kitchen. You have to have your kitchen fundamentals down pat before you can improvise, but once you do, prepare to take a deep bow. Just last night, I used up a package of coleslaw by adding shredded carrots, sliced onions and a handful of broken vermicelli along with some chicken stock. The results? Delicious!  

Yes, indeed.  What Diana Krall is to the piano, I am to a bag of wilting cabbage.

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This week’s question for readers:


Submissions to last week’s question:

Any home cures that get trotted out when someone’s sick?

Gloves, I tell you!  We ought to go back to wearing gloves in public spaces.  It’ll keep down the transmission of bugs and therefore keep down sick days and hospital admissions. (And they look pretty snappy, too!)

L. Dhaliwal

Many years ago, I heard this lady from India telling her son to add pepper to his turmeric. She smiled and told me that her son has a sore throat. I asked about the turmeric/pepper combo and she explained that it helps to fight off colds. Mix 1/4 tsp turmeric with 1/8 tsp of pepper with a bit of water and drink it at the first sign of a sore throat. We tried it, and it tasted awful, but, it seemed to work.  We now mix turmeric and ground black pepper with 1 oz of maple syrup in a shooter glass, and call it the “Concoction”!  Works for us!

Dirk van Renesse

Growing up in the Philippines, my mom’s home cure-all remedy was a pot of “lugaw” – rice soup. She would simmer a pot of rice with chopped onions, garlic and fish sauce for a couple of hours and serve it topped with a boiled egg for protein. I always felt better after consuming a bowlful and still prescribe the same for my kids during cold and flu season or the day after they over indulge.

Shirley Townley-Smith

Our old-time remedy for a sore throat also involved a dampened wool sock wrapped around the throat.  What I remember most was how much you missed it when it was removed; you felt naked.  There was a draft and not only around your neck—you were drafted back to school.  You were declared “better” and normal responsibilities were again expected.  What a bummer!

June Macdonald

After bathing, rub Vaseline into those dry cracked heels for a couple of weeks. Your heels will be as smooth as silk. Muscle cramps can be painful; swallow a spoonful of mustard straight from the jar and those nasty spasms will soon dissipate. Lastly, if you have sores in your nose that won’t heal, mix one part bleach to ten parts water; dip a Q-tip into the mix, then run the potion around the inside of your nose twice a day. Works like a damn!

Bonnie Hamilton

At the first sign of a cold, I start using containers of individual saline (not medicated) eyedrops. (Tears Naturale Free by Alcon are reclosable.) After wearing contact lenses, my eyes feel prickly at the onset of a cold. Also, the eyes are another source of warm mucous membranes for germs to multiply. The drops wash away germs which love to multiply on warm mucous membranes. I continue to use eye drops periodically during the day, and especially before sleep. They help a lot to eradicate multiplying of germs.

Masako Stillwell

I remember two home remedies for seasonal viruses from my childhood. The first, called a mustard plaster, was a thick paste of Keen’s powdered mustard and water smeared onto an old cloth diaper and applied directly to the chest area to clear congestion.

It would also irritate the skin, making it bright red. The other remedy was for sore throats. Powdered sulfur (purchased from the local drug store) was sprinkled onto a piece of paper, which was then rolled up. The patient sat with their mouth open while someone else inserted the paper tube into their mouth and blew the sulfur directly onto the affected area.

It’s a wonder that we survived childhood!

Glen Taylor

This one was passed on to me by a colleague. It was about 10 years ago, and I had an intensely sore throat. She suggested Manuka Honey from New Zealand and Australia. It’s not cheap, but it keeps for years. Hydrogen peroxide gives most honey its’ antibiotic quality. But some types, including Manuka honey, also have unique antibacterial qualities. And it tastes great. Take a teaspoon and let it melt in your mouth.

Ellie O’Day

Consider your good luck to be home when down with a bug – we got ours in a primitive ski cabin near Revelstoke where we had helicoptered in for a week’s backcountry skiing – 12 of us North Shore Hikers. The absolute transmissibility of the bug ensured we all got it, some worse than others, and in spite of obsessive disinfection, so did the people the following  week! This was pre-Covid when Norwalk first appeared.

Lesley Bohm

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