I love soup. So imagine my chagrin each time I go to the grocery store and experience a soup crisis. In the hot and sticky summer months I just figured that soup must be stocked on a more seasonal basis in my new home state of North Carolina. After all, not many folks probably get a hankering for a steamy bowl of goodness during soaring temperatures and high humidity. Obviously, I’m not most people.
Soup choices seem endless. I ate soup that came in microwaveable containers for five years straight, day in and day out, for lunch at school. I prefer broth-based to cream-based soups, but am not too picky. At home, a few varieties of canned soup grace my gullet again and again. I slurp tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches, plop clam chowder into a sourdough bowl and sprinkle it with chives and cracked pepper, garnish chicken tortilla soup with sour cream, shredded pepper jack, a dash of tabasco, and a mound of tortilla strips. I just simply cannot say enough about the comfort and the pleasure of soup.
Once the temperature finally started to drop, I logically concluded that the soup selections at my regular grocery stores would improve. Alas, that was not the case. On week, my usual store might not have any clam chowder, but luckily the shelves will be overflowing with plenty of caramelized French onion soup. That has been the hardest type of soup to find in Charlotte stores. I think I could eat it every day, or at least every other day. After heating it up, I pour it into a soufflé dish, top it with croutons and provolone cheese and then leave it under the broiler until the cheese bubbles and browns.
Chicken tortilla is also a difficult one to find. When I do come across certain types, I am learning to snap up more than a few cans. Not once have I been able to find vegetable beef soup with barley. The selections of beef soups are the most disappointing in the Southern grocery stores I’ve visited. However, there are at least four to five varieties of southern-style soups that I can’t ever recall seeing in Idaho. I’m sure red beans and rice are great, but I want to know I can have my favorites before I give the others a try. Not to worry though, since I’ve rarely met a soup that I didn’t like.
One boon has been that I can buy Texas Roadhouse Chili. My usual Idaho store stopped carrying that one long ago in cans, but on occasion it would make in an appearance with the microwavable chili varieties. Another plus has been the types of brothy Asian soups I have found, but by far my favorite is Annie Chun’s Thai Tom Yum Soup.
Matt and I went to Monsoon Thai Cuisine a couple of weeks ago and ordered the hot-pot pictured above. Other hot pots I’ve ordered didn’t come with the centerpiece that you light on fire, but it added an interesting and scary touch. Surprisingly, the hot-pot at Monsoon didn’t come with noodles. We definitely don’t know a lot about Thai food, so we can make a point to eat at a few more Thai places in the future. Not to mention I love, love, love P.F. Chang’s spicy chicken noodle soup. I’ve been meaning to find a copycat recipe on the Internet but just haven’t gotten around to it yet.
Ironically, despite my love for food, I am not much of a cook. My passion for soup is slowly motivating me to cook a little more. Long ago, my mom (who also isn’t much of a cook) and I would make clam chowder from scratch. As a teenager, I occasionally asked that the holiday turkey carcass be set aside so I could concoct a delicious batch of turkey noodle soup. While working in the restaurant at Everglades National Park, I ate a fiery bowl of conch chowder nearly every day. As with any desire, the desire for soup only continues to grow as the palate desires to encounter even more satisfying recipes.
The first time Matt and I grew a crop of red onions in our Idaho garden I slaved away and made French onion soup. More recently, I’ve mastered a version of mushroom barley soup that I simply cannot get enough of. Matt may be the better cook, but I’ve at least decided to develop my skills as a soup cook. In the meantime, I will look forward to Matt’s Thanksgiving bouillabaisse and to trying a few more recipes of my own.
A life without soup would not be a life at all. What food(s) do you love? Feel free to comment in the space below.