History of soup is about as old as the history of cooking. From
ancient times, the act of combining various ingredients in a large pot
to create a wholesome, nutritious, easy-to-digest food was bound to
happen. This made it the perfect choice for rich and poor, nomadic or
settled cultures and both healthy people and invalids. Soups (and
stews, broths, gruels, etc.) evolved according to locally available
ingredients and tastes. New England Chowder, Spanish Gazpacho, Russian
Borscht, Italian Minestrone, French Onion ...and not forgetting local
favourites like Cape seafood soup, evolved from the foodstuffs avaialable.
The word "Soup", in fact, derives from sop or sup,
meaning the slice of bread on which broth was poured. Before the
invention of bread which soon became the traditional accompaniment to a
bowl of soup, the only kind of thick soup was a concoction of grains,
or of plants and meat cooked in a pot. A thick porridge of some kind is
still the staple food of many peoples, and it is not always made of
cereals, but may consist of other starch foods: legumes, chestnuts or
"Soups were easily digested and were prescribed for the sick and
incapacitated since ancient times. The modern restaurant industry is
said to be based on soup. Restoratifs (wheron the word 'restaurant'
comes) were the first items served in public restaurants in 18th
century Paris. Broth [Pot-au-feu], bouillion, and consomme entered
here. Classic French cuisine generated many of the soups we know
today." [From "Food in History, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, translated by Anthea Bell, 1992]
Borscht, Chowder, Bouillabaisse, Consomme and Gazpacho are all traditional and cultural variations on basic soups.
Borscht is soup made mostly from beets. It is/was a specialty of
eastern European/Russian cuisine, primarily of the poorer people (beets
were cheap). The range of choice of soups in Russian cuisine is
explained by the folk habit to have a soup meal at least once a day.
Schi, borsch, rassolnik, botvinia, ukha, okroshka, solianka and many
others has been a peculiarity of Russia since Medieval times. These
soups are usually made on meat, fish, mushroom, vegetables or milk
The word chowder and its
application to fisherman's stew comes from France. Versions of la
chaudree, (cauldron) are common along the coast from just north of
Bordeaux well up to Brittany. Clam chowders are becoming accepted as a
suitable substitute for fish chowders, but it will be another fifty
years before they become widely popular in most cuisine circles.
A consommé is a clear soup has been in the French cuisine lexicon since
the 16th century, but has been eaten by the English since the early
part of the 19th century. In French it is the past participle of the
verb consommer, meaning to consume or accomplish or finish, and
indicating in this context a finished soup as opposed to a simple stock
A consomme may be served hot or cold, usually at the beginning of the
meal. The simplest consomme of all, in France, is the broth (bouillon).
Gazpacho is actually a Spanish dish. The word evolved from Arabic
roots. Spain (Andalusia, more specifically) was invaded by the Moors in
the Middle Ages. As a result, much of that region's gastronomy was
greatly affected by Middle Eastern recipes and ingredients.
This tomato-based soup was introduced to Europe and the world by
Spanish missionaries. Having gained popularity in Engalnd and France,
English colonists and French settlers took this chilled soup to eth
rest of eth world. In the old world "In the Spanish style" often simply
meant with tomatoes.
The earliest gazpacho type recipes go as far back as the middle ages,
long before tomatoes were known in the Old World. When the Spanish came
to the New World they brought with them hundreds of years of culinary
traditions. Many of these recipes, including those for soups and stews,
readily embraced new ingredients, including tomatoes.