Updated: Dec 15, 2020
Are you as curious about the origins of soup as we are? Then you’re in luck, as we’re going to break down the important points of the vast history of soup, dating back thousands of years and across multiple regions.
The first known example of soup appeared in Xianrendong Cave, China back in 20,000 BCE. Determined through scorch marks in ancient pottery, suggesting the users had made some kind of hot soup. Although this is technically the first appearance of a soup bowl rather than the meal itself, it’s assumed that a simple pit was dug and used as a pot for soup making. Using hot rocks to boil water around this time also happened to be a known practice among Neanderthals as well.
The advancements in ceramic pottery, particularly in the crafting of pots and pans, allowed for hot liquids to be better mixed with other foods of the time. Users could boil grains, meat, hard root vegetables, and beans without much difficulty. The leftover broth now available was used alongside bread for dipping.
Making a quick move to Ancient Greece, the spartan soldiers commonly ate black soup, which was made of white onion broth, oil, spices, vegetable juices, and acids. In the Iliad, this soup was referred to as ‘soup of the heroes.’
400 - 1200 AD
Soup plays an important role in the diet of the Middle Ages. Being both inexpensive and flexible, as you could add whatever you had available into a pot, it helped though many food shortages throughout the era. The Roman Empire was responsible for bringing soup over to Southern Spain as they conquered the ancient world. Spain soon became famous for its Gazpacho soup.
1300 - 1600 AD
Soup began being served as the main course during the Renaissance period in Europe, as the addition of soup alongside other food made plates look too crowded. Before the invention of the spoon around this time, users had to rely on using bread to consume the meal, often splattering their clothes with the liquid. Soup broth was also sold in the streets as a cure-all for fatigue. The term for ‘soup’ itself made it into the English language at this time, stemming from the German word ‘suppa,’ although others claim the Latin word ‘sope’ is where it originated.
The first luxury restaurant in Paris, opening in 1786, was the first introduction to many soup types still eaten today. Clear soups were known as consommes while thicker soups became purees. By the end of the century, every French region had its own unique soup flavor. In other areas of the word, soup recipes were beginning to appear in the media and were further developed alongside other scientific advancements, focusing on canned and dehydrated products.
The Mid-1800s - 2000
Canned soup and food companies began taking off, with the selling of canned goods at affordable prices. Over the next four centuries, canned products are a pantry staple. The introduction of dried ramen noodle soups that took minutes to prepare occurred in Japan in 1958, thanks to Nissin Foods.
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