This is really just an ode to soup.
by Sam Boudiab
“Every day I make my silly little soup, and every day I take my silly little picture.”
Those are the words that go through my head as I take yet another photo of my soup that looks near identical to the one I made the previous day. While they may be similar, I hold the same amount of pride for each batch of soup I make. But why is soup so important to me? My instinct is to say, “because soup saves,” but now that I’ve taken some time to really ponder the significance of soup, I realized I have many soup-related emotions to explore.
Soup is versatile. You can make it as healthy or as rich as you want, add noodles or rice or dumplings, put it in a bread bowl, in a watermelon, in a flaming-hot stone bowl, whatever vessel you desire. I love the idea that there’s a soup for everyone, fulfilling many purposes, filling many hearts and stomachs. I like to freeze vegetable scraps and leftover bones to use as soup stock later, which helps me reduce my food waste. Also, because I don’t drink enough water, having soup helps me stay hydrated. Even going for a bowl of ramen, which is much more rich and salty than what I make at home, fills a void in my heart that only soup dishes can fill. Preparing and eating soup makes me feel resourceful, healthy, and satisfied.
Soup is culture. On top of the health benefits, soup connects us to other cultures through its many forms and flavors. There are so many ways to make and eat soup! Ramen is one of my favorite foods because so much work goes into it before you even order it. Some ramen shops spend upwards of 18 hours just on the broth for their ramen, which can really be appreciated with only a small sip of that sweet, sweet soup. Though ramen is originally from China, there are now many different kinds from different regions in Japan as well as the rest of the world. And, of course ramen isn’t the only soup that holds cultural significance. Here in the west, we eat chicken noodle soup when we aren’t feeling well, and butternut squash soup during autumn. For me, whenever I eat lentil soup I’m brought back to my Lebanese roots, and am comforted by the flavors I enjoyed since my childhood. I imagine my mom setting down a steaming bowl in front of my childhood self and being soothed by the warmth, the spices, and the textures – basically Anton Ego’s flashback in Ratatouille. Soup allows me to connect to my own culture and gives me opportunities to appreciate other ones.
Soup is all-embracing. I love the process of sitting down to eat soup. I like it to be scalding hot, and I sometimes organize each spoonful so the ratio of ingredients is perfect. That’s my soup. I believe there is a soup for everyone, and if you haven’t found your soup, I challenge you to search for it! You may find yourself unlocking areas in your heart where you need the comfort only soup can provide, or perhaps you will find an interest in a new culture or cuisine. Everyone deserves to be saved by soup.
Sam Boudiab is a multidisciplinary creative based in Chicago. She prefers beverages and soups to be scalding hot and spends way too much time trying to “understand.” She thinks baba ghanouj is better than hummus. Find her work at samanthaboudiab.com and on Instagram at @samanthaboudiab.