Legends of the Ladle

There was a time that I came home for lunch in junior high and warmed up a can of Campbell’s Soup. For a split second, I think I thought that was soup! Andy Warhol immortalized my lunch with his Campbell Soup Cans series. Before he discovered silk-screening, he hand-painted each can with a scary mechanical accuracy and then displayed them in the art gallery in the same way that grocery stores stacked the cans (all varieties of them). If Andy Warhol considered the glop in the red and white cans to be soup, it must be soup, right? Appropriately enough, I think I even had a trash can in my dorm room that was an oversize Campbell’s Soup Can.

I finally moved on from Campbell’s after my grandmother brought over a crock full of her navy bean soup. Made from scratch, her savory, creamy broth was dotted with finely diced ham and carrots. She brought some to my grandfather at the nursing home the night he died. For all I know, the salty soup brought on his heart attack, but I guarantee he loved that meal—his last, it turns out.

After Grandma’s best-ever bean soup, there was Dad’s homemade chicken noodle (for when we had colds). But as an adult, a whole new world opened up to me with Stone Soup in San Francisco. It was my go-to lunch spot back in the day. We’d form lines along an island with urns of delicious soups that changed daily. A modest salad bar and bread sticks would complete the meal. For office workers trying to survive in the Financial District, it was a little slurp of heaven.

Also in San Francisco, forever etched in my memory is a pungent hot-and-sour soup spooned down my throat on a cold damp night at a Chinatown cafe. Such warmth for the soul! And Alioto’s clam chowder on Fisherman’s Wharf became a base line to compare all others with.

What are your soup memories? Usually, they are fond ones (unless cans are involved, as mentioned).

Going out to eat? Ask your server for the soup of the day—and steer clear of predictable offerings. You’ll be treated to something relatively inexpensive, often not on the menu and generally delicious. Soups are often so satisfying that you can then easily share an entrée with your dining companion and feel just right at the end of your meal—not too full!

To get an idea of what to slurp, where to sup and/or how to create your own “liquid gold,” peruse the articles in this edition of Devour. Our writers have outdone themselves tracking down delightful soups and stews. Find out how to heal your ills with soup and what breads are best to dunk in your broth.

Finally, as this is the season of frights and delights, be sure to catch Darby Doyle’s creatively creepy Spirit Guide feature, where she queried local bibliophiles to divine drinks that go with dread (by that, I mean horror novels). And yes, they do chill well together!

May your soup memories be ever in the making, and may they be warm ones at that.
—Jerre Wroble

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