Chicken soup

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Thanks, Campbell’s. You’ve inspired me.

I recently read an article in the  business section of the Washington Post (on a rare visit to this section when I fled the bad news in section A) about how Campbell’s, the soup that was the only soup of my girlhood, is struggling.

It’s no surprise, really. Campbell’s is old school. It was part of lunch back in the ‘60s, when Mom’s grilled cheese and tomato was on Wonder bread and always came with CampbellsCreamOfTomatoSoup. That’s one word.

I also remember spelling out my name with alphabet soup noodles, courtesy of Campbell. G-I-N-N-Y. And cracking open a can of chicken noodle if someone was sick. And there was that gloppy-looking mushroom soup that Mom used in at least one of those recipes with an ingredient list that included a can of this, a box of that.

I’m not disappointed that my old pal Campbell’s is no longer popular. People are more interested in eating fresh food, and that’s a good thing. As the article pointed out, shoppers are avoiding the dreaded “center aisles” of the grocery store, where we’ve learned all the processed foods reside. Stick to the perimeter, nutritionists tell us, for fresh vegetables and fruits, fresh meat and dairy products. Reject the canned and boxed goods – what Michael Pollan’s Food Rules  calls “edible foodlike substances,” as opposed to “real food.” “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food,” he says.

The Post article goes on to say that Campbell’s is remaking its image, pivoting like a savvy politician to keep up with new preferences. It’s launched three variations on healthier soup options: Garden Fresh Gourmet, Souplicity and Well Yes.

My favorites are Well Yes!

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Who can resist a brand called Yes!? Also, those fun labels! Tiny pictures of corn cobs and peppers! How do you make a pile of quinoa look so appealing? And the article illustration shows the cans stacked, pyramid style. I just want to try every one of them.

Except I too am all about the fresh food. And I haven’t eaten Campbell’s soup in decades.

My solution: I am recreating each of these appealing flavors in the soup pyramid – my pyramid of inspiration. Yes!

Half the battle of getting dinner on the table is figuring out what to make. Problem solved!

So far, my little game has been a success. I made a black bean-red quinoa soup that everyone at Tuesday night family dinner  liked. As the first one out of the box – or out of the can – black bean-quinoa showed me it might take a few tries to get this exactly right. I’m thinking less quinoa and more broth next time.

But the chicken noodle soup – amazing. It helps that I had it on a cold, grey day in February, tailor made for chicken noodle soup making. And that the soup had overnight to meld all its delicious flavors together.

I could pretend I planned it that way, but here’s the irony:  I started the chicken soup late, at 7:45 p.m., because I got hung up at work, and then I had to stop at the co-op for carrots and celery. The soup was going to take at least an hour to make and I was just too hungry to wait. I wound up defrosting a box of Indian food for dinner and ate it while the soup bubbled on the stove.

I guess there is a place for convenience food, too.

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