Soup is a primarily liquid food, generally served warm or hot (but may be cool or cold), that is made by combining ingredients of meat or vegetables with stock, or water. Hot soups are additionally characterized by boiling solid ingredients in liquids in a pot until the flavors are extracted, forming a broth.
In traditional French cuisine, soups are classified into two main groups: clear soups and thick soups. The established French classifications of clear soups are bouillon and consommé. Thick soups are classified depending upon the type of thickening agent used: purées are vegetable soups thickened with starch; bisques are made from puréed shellfish or vegetables thickened with cream; cream soups may be thickened with béchamel sauce; and veloutés are thickened with eggs, butter, and cream. Other ingredients commonly used to thicken soups and broths include egg,rice, lentils, flour, and grains; many popular soups also include pumpkin, carrots, and potatoes.
Soups are similar to stews, and in some cases there may not be a clear distinction between the two; however, soups generally have more liquid (broth) than stews.
Evidence of the existence of soup can be found as far back as about 20,000 BC. Boiling was not a common cooking technique until the invention of waterproof containers (which probably came in the form of clay vessels). Animal hides and watertight baskets of bark or reeds were used before this. To boil the water hot rocks were used. This method was also used to cook acorns and other plants.
The word soup comes from Frenchsoupe ("soup", "broth"), which comes through Vulgar Latinsuppa ("bread soaked in broth") from a Germanic source, from which also comes the word "sop", a piece of bread used to soak up soup or a thick stew.
The word restaurant (meaning "[something] restoring") was first used in France in the 16th century, to refer to a highly concentrated, inexpensive soup, sold by street vendors, that was advertised as an antidote to physical exhaustion. In 1765, a Parisian entrepreneur opened a shop specializing in such soups. This prompted the use of the modern word restaurant for the eating establishments.
In the US, the first colonialcookbook was published by William Parks in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1742, based on Eliza Smith's The Compleat Housewife; or Accomplished Gentlewoman's Companion, and it included several recipes for soups and bisques. A 1772 cookbook, The Frugal Housewife, contained an entire chapter on the topic. English cooking dominated early colonial cooking; but as new immigrants arrived from other countries, other national soups gained popularity. In particular, German immigrants living in Pennsylvania were famous for their potato soups. In 1794, Jean Baptiste Gilbert Payplat dis Julien, a refugee from the French Revolution, opened an eating establishment in Boston called "The Restorator", and became known as the "Prince of Soups". The first American cooking pamphlet dedicated to soup recipes was written in 1882 by Emma Ewing: Soups and Soup Making.
Portable soup was devised in the 18th century by boiling seasoned meat until a thick, resinoussyrup was left that could be dried and stored for months at a time.
An advertisement for Campbell's canned soup, circa 1913
Commercial soup became popular with the invention of canning in the 19th century, and today a great variety of canned and dried soups are on the market.
Canned soup (condensed with liquid added, also called "ready-to-eat") can be prepared by simply heating in a pan, rather than actually cooking anything. It can be made on the stovetop or in the microwave. Such soups can be used as a base for homemade soups, with the consumer adding anything from a few vegetables to eggs, meat, cream or pasta.
Doctor John T. Dorrance, a chemist with the Campbell Soup Company, invented condensed soup in 1897.Canned soup can be condensed, in which case it is prepared by adding water (or sometimes milk), or it can be "ready-to-eat", meaning that no additional liquid is needed before eating. Condensing soup allows soup to be packaged into a smaller can and sold at a lower price than other canned soups. The soup is usually doubled in volume by adding a "can full" of water or milk, about 10 US fluid ounces (300 ml).
Since the 1990s, the canned soup market has burgeoned, with non-condensed soups marketed as "ready-to-eat", so they require no additional liquid to prepare. Microwaveable bowls have expanded the "ready-to-eat" canned soup market even more, offering convenience (especially in workplaces), and making for popular lunch items. In response to concerns over the negative health effects of excessivesalt intake, some soup manufacturers have introduced reduced-salt versions of popular soups.
Today, Campbell's Tomato (introduced in 1897), Cream of Mushroom, and Chicken Noodle (introduced in 1934) are three of the most popular soups in America. Americans consume approximately 2.5 billion bowls of these three soups alone each year. Other popular brands of soup include Progresso.
Dried ramen noodle soups are popular lunch items.
Dry soup mixes are sold by many manufacturers, and are reconstituted with hot water; other fresh ingredients may then be added.
In French cuisine, soup is often served before other dishes in a meal. In 1970, Richard Olney gave the place of the entrée in a French full menu: "A dinner that begins with a soup and runs through a fish course, an entrée, a sorbet, a roast, salad, cheese and dessert, and that may be accompanied by from three to six wines, presents a special problem of orchestration".
Fruit soups are prepared using fruit as a primary ingredient, and may be served warm or cold depending on the recipe. Many varieties of fruit soups exist, and they may be prepared based upon the availability of seasonal fruit.
Cold soups are a particular variation on the traditional soup, wherein the temperature when served is kept at or below room temperature. They may be sweet or savory. In summer, sweet cold soups can form part of a dessert tray. An example of a savory chilled soup is gazpacho, a chilled vegetable-based soup originating from Spain.
"Peasants' soup" is a catch-all term for soup made by combining a diverse—and often eclectic—assortment of ingredients. Variations on peasants' soup are popular in Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Africa.
Solyanka – Russian soup on a meat, fish or vegetable broth with pickles, spices and smoked meat or fish.
Sopa da Pedra is a rich traditional Portuguese soup with lots of ingredients.
Sopa de Peixe is a traditional Portuguese fish soup.
Soto is a traditional Indonesian soup made with turmeric, galangal, etc., usually contains either beef or chicken.
Soupe aux Pois Jaunes is a traditional Canadian pea soup that is made with yellow peas and often incorporates ham.
Svartsoppa is a traditional Swedish soup, whose main ingredient is goose and, sometimes, pig's blood, and is made in Skåne, the southernmost region of Sweden. The other ingredients typically include vinegar, port wine or cognac and spices such as cloves, ginger and allspice. The soup is served warm with boiled pieces of apple and plums, goose liver sausage and the boiled innards of the goose.
Split peas soup is a thick soup made in the Caribbean from split peas (chickpeas or garbanzos), usually includes "ground provision" vegetable staples and some type of meat.
Żurek is a Polish sour rye soup with sausages, is often served in a bowl made of bread.
Ärtsoppa is a Swedish split pea soup, served with mustard and fresh marjoram or thyme. It is traditionally eaten as lunch on Thursdays. It is served together with Swedish punsch as beverage and Swedish pancakes with preserved berries for dessert.
As a figure of speech
Mirepoix consists of carrot, onion and celery and is often used for soup stocks and soups.
In the English language, the word soup has developed several uses in phrase.
Alphabet soup, a large number of acronyms used by an administration; the term has its roots in a common tomato-based soup containing pasta shaped in the letters of the alphabet
Duck soup, a simple soup, stands for a task that is particularly easy
"From soup to nuts" means "from beginning to end", referring to the traditional position of soup as the first course in a multi-course meal
"In the soup" refers to being in a bad situation
Soup kitchen, a place that serves prepared food of any kind to the homeless
Stone soup, a popular children's fable about a poor man who encourages villagers to share their food with him by telling them that he can make soup with a stone
Souperism, the practice of bible societies during the Irish Great Famine to feed the hungry in exchange for religious instruction. The expression 'took the soup' is used to refer to those who converted at the behest of these organizations' offers of food