Bon Appetit Wednesday: Celebrating Germany’s National Soup Day!

soup over fireIt’s National Soup Day in Germany. Time to break out your best potato, cabbage or lentil soup, cozy up to a toasty fire and warm your bones. But of course, soup isn’t just appreciated in Germany. It’s a dish enjoyed all over the world in thousands of variations. And it has been a food staple in many ancient civilizations. In honor of Germany’s holiday we’re bringing you a recipe for hearty Kartoffelsuppe (German Potato Soup) and offering a brief ancient history of soup. So sit back, grab a spoon and enjoy!

Until recently it was believed that regular soup-making began 5,000 and 9,000 years ago with the invention of heatproof and waterproof containers, respectively, but a discovery in 2013 found 20,000-year-old heatproof and waterproof containers in China that could easily have been used for making soup.[1] Researchers are quick to point out that ancient people didn’t necessarily need these types of containers to make soup. They could accomplish the same goal by digging a pit and lining it with animal skin or gut before filling it with water and rocks.[2] The Native Americans used this method with bags made from animal hides, and so it isn’t hard to imagine that humans were doing it much further back than we originally assumed. In fact, it’s likely our Neanderthal ancestors were eating something very similar to a soup. To supplement their almost 100 percent protein diet they would have boiled animal bones in order to get the fat out. So it is very possible they would have lapped up the resulting broth.[3] Also, cooked starch grains have been found in Neanderthal teeth in Iraq, which could mean they were eating some sort of thick soupy dish.[4] (The origins of dental floss are for another blog.)

It would have been a very natural move for ancient cultures to rely on soup as a food staple. If you can only find a few ingredients to eat, it makes sense to boil these together into a more filling meal.[5] Also, it would be easily digestible and a perfect dish for the weak or sick.[6] Another advantage of making soup is that the boiling often makes foods more edible. For example, acorns are typically bitter, but become tasty when boiled.[7]

The word “soup” actually derives from the bread that was typically dipped into the broth rather than the soup itself. An A-Z of Food and Drink explains how we got the word we use today:

The etymological idea underlying the word soup is that of soaking. It goes back to an unrecorded post-classical Latin verb suppare soak’, which was borrowed from the same prehistoric German root (sup-) as produced in English sup and supper. From it was derived the noun suppa, which passed into Old French as soupe. This meant both piece of bread soaked in liquid’ and, by extension, broth poured onto bread.’ It was the latter strand of the meaning that entered English in the seventeenth century. Until the arrival of the term soup, such food had been termed broth or pottage.[8]

Once soup really took hold around the world, it became the basis for entire restaurants and today is a cooking specialty in itself. To think it probably all started with boiling some bones in a pit in the ground!

Kartoffelsuppe (German Potato Soup)

*Recipe courtesy of http://www.german-recipes-and-more.com/potato-soup-recipe.html

Ingredients

  • 5-6 large russet potatoeskartoffelsuppe
  • 2 medium carrots (yellow carrots if available)
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1 leek
  • sprig of parsley
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 slices of bacon (more fat the better)
  • 2 tablespoons of lard or butter
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 8 cups of salt water
  • pinch of marjoram
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Peel and dice potatoes.
  2. Slice carrots, celery and leek.
  3. Mince parsley.
  4. Add above to salt water and bring to a slow boil in soup pot.
  5. Cook until potatoes are tender.
  6. Chop bacon into small pieces and fry in large skillet.
  7. Add butter to skillet.
  8. Dice onion and sauté in skillet until browned.
  9. Add flour to skillet and mix thoroughly.
  10. Cook skillet mixture on medium heat for 2 minutes.
  11. Slowly add 1 cup of liquid from soup pot to skillet.
  12. Stir until uniform.
  13. Add skillet mixture to soup pot.
  14. Stir in marjoram.
  15. Simmer for 25 minutes.
  16. Ladle soup into food processor or blender and puree.
  17. Return to soup pot.
  18. Add water if thinning is needed.
  19. Salt and pepper to taste.
  20. Bring to a slow boil.
  21. Serve

[1] Stone Age Stew? Soup Making May Be Older Than We’d Thought. (2013, February 11). Retrieved November 13, 2014.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Martin, K. (2009, September 9). History of Soup. Retrieved November 13, 2014, from http://www.ehow.com/about_5399668_history-soup.html

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Martin, K. (2009, September 9). History of Soup. Retrieved November 13, 2014, from http://www.ehow.com/about_5399668_history-soup.html

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