When the temperature drops and the nights get colder, what’s better than a hot bowl of soup? This concoction is simple, yet it warms your body and soul like no other. Your ancestors have been eating soup for centuries, so how long have people eaten it? The history of soup is extensive, as it was one of the first meals humans created for themselves.
Walk down the soup aisle at the grocery store, and you’ll see hundreds of options because this meal is easy to process, buy and eat. You couldn’t go to the store and buy a can of Campbell Soup in the 1700s, so how did people manage? When was soup first created?
Soup has a long history, but the fundamental methods have remained unchanged. You only need meat, vegetables and liquid to make a delicious soup. Here’s the complete history of one of winter’s most popular meals.
The history of soup
Studying the history of soup requires a powerful time machine. First, you’ll need to head to Mesopotamia, a region in present-day Iraq where one of the first human civilizations formed.
In 6,000 B.C.E., people were eating hippopotamus soup — the oldest soup known to humans, according to archaeological evidence. You can’t recreate hippopotamus soup today, but the original recipe included hippo meat, vegetables, lentils, sparrow meat, herbs and spices.
After Mesopotamia, soup became popular worldwide because it’s easy to make and warms the body. A hot bowl of soup made life a little easier when dealing with harsh winters up north, so heating a pot over the fire made the most sense back then.
As civilizations grew, you started to see more soups based on regional preferences. For example, borscht is an Eastern European staple. The first borscht appeared in modern Ukraine between the 5th and 9th centuries, taking advantage of the region’s plentiful supply of beets and potatoes.
Fast forward to the 18th century, and you start to see restaurants and street vendors selling soup. Legend has it that an entrepreneur named Boulanger started selling soups in Paris around 1765 — a couple of decades before the French Revolution.
By the late 19th century, you started to see the Second Industrial Revolution and canned soup. In 1897, the Campbell Soup Company invented condensed soup. This inexpensive option packs the essentials of soup inside a can without water. All you had to do was fill the empty can with water and add it to your ingredients mixture to make a bowl of soup.
Canned soup was cheaper to make and lasted longer in your cupboard. People could bring it with them on long trips, and it assisted food supplies during wars due to its portability.
Why is soup called soup?
There’s a reason behind every food’s name, and that rule applies to soup. So, why is soup called soup? The liquid-based dish gets its name from the French word for soup, soupe. Saying soupe in France would mean soup or broth to the French-speaking residents.
However, the reason why soup is called soup has earlier roots than that. Your Latin textbook would say the word suppa means bread you soak in broth. The early days of human cooking entailed soaking bread in your soup to make it taste even better. You can also look to old Germanic languages to find the word supan, which is the act of absorbing liquid.
Why is soup a winter food?
You likely associate soup with the cold weather, making it most popular in the fall and winter. So, why is soup a winter food? Can’t you also eat it in the spring and summer?
Soup is a winter food because you generally eat it while it’s hot. Slurping a bowl of soup makes more sense on New Year’s Eve than during a summer cookout. You can bring the soup outside to warm your body while bracing the cold conditions. Imagine sitting around the campfire and eating piping hot chicken noodle soup from a thermos as the snow falls around you.
Another reason for soup’s winter popularity is the foods you put in it. Many soup recipes call for fresh vegetables, making your meal nutritious and tasty. Plenty of soups utilize winter vegetables, such as squash, kale and turnips. Eating these veggies in season ensures you get maximum nutrients and taste from your winter soup.
Most famous types of soup
Soup has taken numerous variations over the years, but a handful of bowls stand out. Here are five of the most famous soups in the U.S. and worldwide.
While you may think of the Campbell Soup variation, chicken noodle soup has been a part of human consumption for centuries. The first bowls of this soup came from northern Europe and eventually made their way to the United States. Nowadays, chicken noodle soup is a staple in the winter, and anytime kids are home sick from school. Remember eating your soup with your grandparents while watching daytime TV?
Chicken noodle soup is an excellent option because it’s healthy with carrots, celery, onion and chicken broth. Add cooked noodles to your meat and veggies for a hearty winter meal.
A slight variation of chicken noodle soup is chicken tortilla soup. You can find this concoction at Chick-fil-A and many of your favorite restaurants. For example, QDOBA’s loaded tortilla soup is a fan favorite because of its limited availability and bursting flavors. The feature of this soup is the tortilla chips and strips you put into the soup, adding some crunch to your chicken and veggies.
While it’s not as old as hippopotamus soup, split pea soup originates in Ancient Rome and Greece. The split pea soup you see today typically includes ham, onion, garlic, celery and other delicious vegetables. Some enjoy blending the soup into a puree, whereas others want the chunky texture with the peas and meat. Regardless, you must include split pea soup when discussing the history of soup.
Some consider gumbo a stew, whereas others say it’s a soup. Regardless, it’s a tasty concoction in Louisiana and across the country. Plus, you can find it in Campbell Soup cans at your local grocery stores.
Gumbo’s popularity led Louisiana to declare it the state dish in 2004 due to its longstanding relationship with residents here. You’ll typically find celery, bell peppers, onions, shrimp, sausage and chicken in this soup. You’ll also find okra, depending on who makes it and their taste preferences. Once done cooking, pour your tasty concoction over cooked rice.
Pho comes from Vietnam and is one of the most popular international soups. This soup is famous for its beef, rice noodles and vegetables. Pho is easily customizable, letting you add bean sprouts, onion, ginger, cabbage, bell peppers and more. Walk the streets of Hanoi, Da Nang or Ho Chi Minh, and you’ll see restaurants and street vendors selling the famous soup.
The history of soup: A human staple
The history of soup and human cuisine go hand in hand. Soup was first created when people learned to make fire. Then, it wouldn’t take long to construct the dish you know today as soup.
Soup is a unique meal because people worldwide eat it and have created many variations. Borscht in Eastern Europe, pho in Vietnam and soto in Indonesia are just a few examples of what soups you’ll try when traveling the world.