Soup is arguably one of the oldest foods. It’s comforting, easy to digest and straightforward to make. My mother makes soup once a week to use up leftovers, a habit that she developed 40-something years ago. But the open canvas that soup can be anything can be incredibly daunting at times. That’s why having a good soup cookbook is one of the best things to keep at hand in the kitchen when staring down the remnants of food left over from other dishes. During my cooking project last year, my friend Lisa Simpson introduced me to The Daily Soup Cookbook by Leslie Kaul and Bob Spiegel (Hyperion, 1999), the folks behind Daily Soup. Lisa used it as inspiration during her year managing a busy lunch shift; every day, she was charged with developing the soup du jour.
Sounds simple, but the fact that soup could be anything kept her awake at night. Someone gave her this book, and she took it to work. She’d pile her dying ingredients on the counter and flip through it. She always had the basics – onions, garlic, celery, carrots, chicken stock – but on the other ingredients, she often had to make substitutions.
She found out that most of the time, the soup turned out anyway. I started to use The Daily Soup Cookbook, and later stumbled across 500 Soups by Susannah Blake (Sellers, 2007). The latter has a stock set of 75 soups, chilis, chowders and so on, and then offers five to 10 variations on each. Between these two books, I’ve found that I can turn whatever I need to use up in the fridge into something.
Why It’s Important: Soup is easy, cheap and a great way to use up leftovers. Every kitchen needs a good soup book. If you keep staples on hand, you don’t need to buy ingredients for soup.