It is as ancient as the art of cooking. Every cuisine has a range of well-known recipes for it. It can be the ultimate comfort food. And in some countries, lunch or dinner are considered incomplete without it. Soup is universal.
Simple or sublime, soup packs a lot of flavor into one dish and, no matter what the season, you can find a pot of soup simmering on a fire or stovetop in just about every corner of the globe. Even cooks with rudimentary skills can toss a few fresh, frozen, or canned ingredients together in a pot, add a bit of salt and pepper, and let time magically transform everything into a satisfying, nutritious, comforting meal.
More than any other dish, soups can tell you a lot about a country’s cooking, culture, traditions, history, and foodstuffs; some have become ubiquitous icons of regional and national cuisines. You don’t have to be a culinary scholar to know that black bean soup is from Cuba, cheesy onion soup is French, and clam chowder is a New England specialty. Each of these soups is an expression of local flavors, ingredients, and cooking traditions that developed over decades and centuries — but some countries have soup recipes that are so ancient and ingrained in the foodways, their origins have been lost to history.
One of the first recorded recipes for soup appears in the ancient Roman collection of recipes often known as "Apicius" (after the famed epicurean Marcus Gavius Apicius, who lived in the first century AD), or, alternately, as De re Coquinaria, Among the many dishes described therein is a soup called Peas or Beans a la Vitellius.
Easy to digest, and considered a powerful natural remedy, soup has been recommended as far back as anyone can remember by everyone from ancient Romans to modern-day doctors to Jewish grandmothers for its healing powers. In fact, according to archaeologist John Speth, an emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, “it's very likely that humans were concocting soup at least 25,000 years ago in some places.”
Whether it’s a simple broth, haute cuisine consommé, cold gazpacho, or hearty goulash, soup is an essential dish and it can be an easy way to learn about a new country and cuisine. You don’t need to pack a bag for this culinary journey — just visit our 12 stops around the world in soup.