A simmering pot of soup redolent of aromatic spices signaled two things in my childhood home - lentil soup for supper and the biblical story of Esau and Jacob retold.
My mother related, while stirring and stirring, how Jacob tricked his twin, Esau, into relinquishing his rights as first-born son. She said Jacob traded his famished brother a bowl of red lentil soup for Esau’s birthright.
Mom never tired of telling the tale, and I never tired of the lentils. The best part for me as a kid? The hot dogs she sliced into the soup after its all-afternoon simmer. former President Jimmy Carter even listed Lentils and Franks as his favorite soup in The Whitehouse Family Cookbook.
Soup ranks high on the food chain all over the world. What restaurant worth its salt doesn’t offer a Soup of the Day, or if you want to get fancy (or Frenchy) about it, Soup du Jour?
Fantastic homemade soups can easily be found at restaurants right here in Henry County.
When the high temperature hit just 15 degrees on Jan. 15, hot soups were a hit at local diners. New Castle Cafe and the Chat-N-Nibble in Eminence had the same filling idea, ladling out homemade white bean soups and chili. Even Subway had a soup of the day. That frosty day it was Broccoli and Cheese.
Hollingsworth’s Diner outside of Campbellsburg is a year-round source of chili greatness. The little restaurant just off I-71 offers a choice of Northern-Style Chili served three, four or five-way (any or all - spaghetti, cheese, onions) or their family recipe made with their own garden-grown vegetables. Millard Hollingsworth said the family’s home-grown “mangos” (green bell peppers) are key to the unique flavor of wife, Marcia’s homestyle chili. The recipe was passed down from her mother.
Speaking of Henry County soups, Saundra Smith of Smithfield, recently shared her two favorite recipes. “I’m known for my chili and my potato soup,” she said.
Smith’s chili recipe originally came from a dorm director at her alma mater, Western Kentucky University. “One of my dorm directors had me over for chili,” she said. “I had a fit over it so she gave me her recipe.”
Smith said she has added her own favorite spices and other touches. “I perfected it over the years,” she said.
Smith said green pepper was optional. “It depends on who I’m feeding,” she said. “Some like them and some don’t.” Smith also said other chili beans could be substituted for Brooke’s. “I’m sure some other brands might work,” she said, “but I get the best results from Brooke’s.”
Smith said she chose her Creamy Potato Soup recipe from an Amish cookbook many years ago. “It is the most delicious soup I ever tasted,” she said.
It appears that the Biblical Jacob was not the only soup trickster mentioned in history or myth.
The story of Stone Soup has variations from France, Russia and the United States to name just a few. The gist of it is a hobo, soldier or stranger of some other sort enters a town of wary villagers jealously guarding their food.
He says he has no need of their food but will share the stone soup he is about to make. After building a fire and boiling a stone in water he entices each one to contribute to his stone soup - cabbage, a bit of salt pork, etc.
Hobo Soup is a variation on that theme with the famous rail riders either receiving donations to add to the stock pot or “liberating” ingredients from local gardens.
Soup as art first came to life in 1964 when pop-art darling Andy Warhol silkscreened a giant Campbell’s soup can on canvas. The literary arts offer the ubiquitous Chicken Soup for the Soul series including the Pet Lover’s Soul, the Teenage Soul and the African American Soul. There is even a Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul.
Television also has a long-running love affair with soup. The Seinfeld Show’s 116th episode entitled “The Soup Nazi” was one of the most popular episodes of all-time and coined the phrase, “No soup for you.”
E! network’s show “The Soup” was spawned from “Talk Soup” a 1990’s spoof of talk shows. The new version pokes fun at entertainment in general.
Soup also finds its way into everyday speech.
“Is it soup yet?” is an expression that became commonly understood to mean “Is it ready?” It originated as a catch phrase in a 1970’s Lipton powdered soup commercial extolling the virtues of reconstituted soup over condensed soup. Dense fog is likened to pea soup.
From soup to nuts means from start to finish and seems an appropriate end to this soup homage.
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