A great article!
The contrast between the mainstream "concept" of soup in America (that differs from many other places in the world) are vast.
In many cultures, soup is an "appreciation"...an experience like wine. Not about the bounty of rich, heavy ingredients. It is much about what is not in the bowl. Some ingredients may have been in the pot during cooking process, at some point. However, ingredients that serve a great purpose, but not meant to "eat". They lend a flavor, and can be akin to reading a great mystery novel. What is that flavor? Where is it coming from? I do not see it, but I can taste and "feel it". Much of the "satisfying" aspects of soups of the world, are not about feeling "full", but enjoying the complex characteristics as an art, tradition, and tell a story, in a simple and uncomplicated form.
Many times, it is very difficult to find such experiences, at restaurant level. For many cultures, it is only offered as a sign of "love & respect" and many view it as an offering of friendship, rather than a dish for sale, or profit.
Some soups of many cultures, would never make it here, in America. Most likely because many would view it as a "waste" or a meal that does not include all of the protein, starch, and bounty of vegetables. Where are the big chunks of chicken, rice, carrots?
The pricing aspect would leave many baffled, and unwilling to feel like they have experienced "bang for the buck". Would you pay $20 for a complex beautiful broth-type soup, that is beyond delicious? Maybe. Many would say "hell no" because this is not the soup they know. For the same money, they could cook a big ham, use the bone for split-pea soup, and maybe do the same with a chicken, for good ol' chicken noodle soup, and be stuffed. It is much about devoting time, using spice and the delicate flavoring "essence" of ingredients, in a simple way. When patron sense simple, they expect inexpensive. Sometimes, recipes are altered (addition of tangible ingredients) but that takes away plenty from the traditional aspect, and now you lose the attraction for a person seeking tradition, and you do not add enough to satisfy the people who are accustomed to "comfort" soup, with very filling ingredients.
As different as New York and New Jersey, so are the differences of the American soup concept, and some of the elusive soups of the world.
It is much like the difference between chinese food that is found on the menu, and the food that chinese people really eat. They are usually not found eating the crab rangoon.
If you find a GREAT restaurant, you can always request something "different", that is not found on the menu.. Many will appreciate the inquiry, and accomodate you, with "their" own food, that is unaltered, and has not been adapted for the American taste.
post edited by CCinNJ - 2009/01/12 14:52:29