Soup is a primarily liquid food, generally served warm (but may be cool or cold), that is made by combining ingredients such as meat and vegetables with stock, juice, water, or another liquid. Hot soups are additionally characterized by boiling solid ingredients in liquids in a pot until the flavors are extracted, forming a broth.
Traditionally, 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 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 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 Parisianentrepreneur 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.
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 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. Canned soup (condensed with liquid added, or "ready-to-eat") can be prepared by heating in a pan, 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.
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 ounces).
Since the 1990s, the canned soup market has burgeoned with soups marketed as "ready-to-eat," which 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 are popular lunch items.
In response to concern over the health effects of excessive salt intake, some soup manufacturers have introduced reduced-salt versions of popular soups.
Dried ramen noodle soups are popular lunch items.
Asian-style soup mixes containing ramen noodles and seasonings are marketed by Western and Asian manufacturers as an inexpensive instant meal, requiring only hot water for preparation.
In terms of Western-style cuisine, vegetable, chicken base, potato, pasta and cheese soups are also available in dry mix form, ready to be served by adding hot water and sometimes fresh ingredients such as meat or vegetables.
Soup is often served as the starter, first course, or entrée before a main 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 served warm or cold depending on the recipe. Many recipes are for cold soups served when fruit is in season during hot weather. Some, like Norwegianfruktsuppe, may be served warm and rely on dried fruit, such as raisins and prunes and so could be made in any season. Fruit soups may include milk or cream, sweet or savoury dumplings, spices, or alcoholic beverages, such as brandy or champagne. Cherry soup is made with table wine and/or port. Starch, particularly potato starch, is used to thicken fruit soups, to make kissel. Blåbärsoppa is a Swedish dish, that usually contains several kinds of berries (for example bilberries, raspberries, strawberries and/or lingonberries), sugar, water and the optional cider or, less commonly nowadays, champagne. The berries, sugar and water are boiled together to make a soup, which is then allowed to cool. When it's cold, cider or champagne are added, which makes the soup fresher and slightly carbonated.
Fruit soups are uncommon or absent in the cuisines of the Americas, Africa and Western Europe. They are also not seen in Japan, Southeast Asia or Oceania.
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. Another example is Mool Naeng Myun which is a Korean cold beef broth.
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, a traditional Indonesian soup made with turmeric, galangal, etc., usually contains either beef or chicken.
Soupe aux Pois Jaunes Traditional Canadian pea soup that is made with yellow peas and often incorporates ham.
Svartsoppa 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, 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, a Polish sour rye soup with sausages, is often served in a bowl made of bread.
Ärtsoppa, 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.
"In the soup" refers to being in a bad situation.
A soup kitchen, a place that serves prepared food of any kind to the homeless.
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.
"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.
Duck soup, a simple soup, stands for a task that is particularly easy.
Duck Soup, title of a Marx Brothers' film in 1933.