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Celebrating the Comforts of Soup

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Before you even reach the kitchen you know something good is on the stove, because you smell the aroma of homemade soup.  Especially in fall and winter, we savor the comforts as well as the nourishment served up in a bowl or a cup.

Potato Soup Closeup

What makes soup a seasonal favorite?  What goes inside, of course.  It starts with a little thoughtfulness and time.  Flour Sack Mama asked a couple of East Tennessee’s most popular dining spots for kitchen access to discover what makes their soups so special.  Hint: they both started by cooking onions. Onions and/or garlic are the traditional herbs that give most homemade soup its umph, even if you detect only a hint of it later on.

“I love soup any time of the year – however in the colder months it just warms your bones,” shared Tomato Head restaurant owner Mahasti Vafaie. “We have some really wonderful, hearty soup recipes that can stand alone as the perfect balanced meal.”

Creamy tomato soup being made

Tomato Head prep kitchen manager Brandon Rogers suggested you might want to decide whether you want to use a butter or an oil along with your onions and/or garlic.  Then he said you can always add more spices as you go along.  One of the best secrets to bringing out the flavors?  Rogers advised, “Salt and pepper are your best friends with soup.”

The Tomato Head in downtown Knoxville’s historic Market Square serves up some sophisticated soup blends that include a range of vegetables and even fruits.  On the day we visited, we had just missed a soup crafted from locally grown pumpkins.  The new focus was on tomato soup.  The restaurant has a distinct diced tomato with chipotle spice soup, which we tasted.  It also uses a Southern roux base for a creamy nostalgic take on tomato.

Chipotle tomato soup with bread

Vafaie explained, “I wanted to come up with a close proximation to Campbell’s Tomato Soup made from scratch.  I think of Tomato Soup as comfort food – so many of us grew up on Campbell’s – eating our version brings back so many childhood memories and associations.    I particularly love Tomato Soup with Grilled cheese…it is a perfect pairing.”

The humble potato, which according to French author Mageulonne Toussaint-Samat in A History of Food was served in soup form to Parisian peasants, is still satisfying soup eaters around the world. That is, if they’re willing to wait for it.  We caught up with cook Erin McCabe as she chopped potatoes in The Market in Maryville.  Flash fried onions with butter, plus a medley of spices to taste all helped create the perfect potato soup for a cooler fall day.

Potato Soup Making

Why make  your own soup from scratch?  McCabe answered, “You can control the amount of sodium and mysterious foods ingredients that are going into your meal.”

The Market, which buys as much local and regional food as possible, often determines which soup it will create based on seasonal surpluses.  The day we visited, potatoes were plentiful.

The Market creates soups five gallons at a time. Diners can also choose from a mouthwatering sandwich menu to for pairings with soup.  The Market owner Paul “Butch” Clark and manager Mike Adams agree their most popular soup served is lobster bisque.

How can you make the most of soup season?  Here are a few ideas:

  • Use what’s available, local, and on sale, then plan accordingly.
  • Don’t be afraid to start with some canned ingredients and enhance after that.
  • Keep spices as simple as salt and pepper, unless you’re feeling more adventurous.
  • Give it some time.  Simmering your creation on the stove brings the added joy of something festive in the air.
  • Bake some bread.  The word “soup” originates from a French term meaning to sop up broth with slices of bread.
  • Can’t eat it all up?  Share with neighbors or freeze some.

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8 Responses to Celebrating the Comforts of Soup

  1. Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green December 3, 2014 at 11:29 pm #

    We love soup during the winter months. Broccoli cheddar soup is a favorite around here. I also made soup from the leftover mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving, it was lovely!
    Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green recently posted…Holiday Gift Guide: For HerMy Profile

  2. Leigh (@greenforu) December 2, 2014 at 10:31 pm #

    I love making soup in the winter… I usually make way to much and have to give it away to friends.
    Leigh (@greenforu) recently posted…Giving Tuesday Guide For The PlanetMy Profile

  3. Lori Popkewitz Alper December 2, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

    We make a vat of soup every week with our CSA veggies. There’s nothing like a warm bowl of soup as the temperatures turn frigid. Soup is good food!
    Lori Popkewitz Alper recently posted…Top 10 Favorite Family Board GamesMy Profile

  4. Lindsay December 2, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    I love soup! I actually just finished a batch of cauliflower and carrot soup that my beau made. I think it’s time to bust out the crock pot and make some chili!
    Lindsay recently posted…Nutrition tricks to support your hot yoga practiceMy Profile

  5. Tiffany (NatureMom) December 2, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    I have made soup for the last two nights in a row. 🙂
    Tiffany (NatureMom) recently posted…Stop Getting Sick! Banish Illness & Stay Well This WinterMy Profile

  6. Betsy (Eco-novice) November 5, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

    One of my favorite things about fall is the yearning to make and eat soup. Didn’t know the origin of the word soup! I always love some homemade bread with my homemade soup for sure!
    Betsy (Eco-novice) recently posted…5 Ways to Practice Gratitude with (or without) KidsMy Profile

  7. green diva meg November 5, 2014 at 10:11 pm #

    OMG – soup heaven! i LOVE soup and it’s time to bust out the big pots and get busy. thanks for the inspiration! yum!
    green diva meg recently posted…Tech Timeout: 8 Tips for Finding Balance in Our Digital WorldMy Profile

  8. Green Bean November 5, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    Those look delicious! I completely agree that it is worth it to make your own soup versus canned. Loved her comment about knowing the ingredients in your meal.
    Green Bean recently posted…Is the Art of Repair Obsolete?My Profile

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