Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Envelope Soup

 "What Contemptible Scoundrel Stole The Cork From My Lunch" --- W.C. Fields

My mother loved "envelope soup" - her name for Lipton's dehydrated chicken noodle soup.
On cold winter days, we'd come home from school for lunch, bursting in the back door out of the -30 or -40 degree cold shouting urgently,  "Mom, I'm starving!" We didn't have to wait long - just the time it took to shrug out of the snow suits, undo the boots, shake them off and run to the table that was squeezed into the corner of the kitchen. (My closet is bigger than that kitchen was). She'd have a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of hot soup waiting. I didn't know, of course, how good I had it. Our youthful appetites were intensified by the freezing weather; the food was lovingly prepared and offered in our warm kitchen; life was uncomplicated (at least for the kids) and we were safe. Happy. My mother would stand by the stove, waiting for me to finish one bowl so she could add more and she'd patiently listen to me babble about the morning at school. It must have been thrilling for her to hear all the things that went on in the second grade. Even after a career in the food business and after eating delicacies all over the world, few things have ever tasted as good as those warm winter lunches and never, ever has there been a listener like my Mom. Except perhaps for your Mom?

I've been thinking about those soup lunches as I've been mapping out our food forays coming up in Japan. First thing in Japan you have to consider is Ramen, Ramen, Ramen. 

It was easy to eat "envelope soup". The inch long, firm noodles were easy to get into a spoon and they'd obediently stay in the spoon until you could get them into your mouth. Even a kid could manage it. 

Moving upscale once in a while, my mother would substitute a bowl of Campbell's canned chicken noodle soup for the envelope variety. The Campbell's noodles were plumper and longer - harder to handle. We'd crouch over our bowls and suck up the noodles, much to my mother's chagrin. She'd insist we suck quietly or we cut the noodles with our spoons. Of course that encouraged us to slurp all the louder.

During the course of my Ramen Reading, I've learned/affirmed that in most of Asia, it's considered bad luck to cut a noodle. A noodle is considered a "life line" and cutting it is not advised. Asians slurp assisting consumption with a deep, flat soup spoon used for the broth and in a minor way to help get the noodles within slurping distance of the mouth.  Noisily and enthusiastically they slurp; the more the better. And not just for the sake of good manners. Even though slurping is complimentary to the chef and conveys satisfaction and happiness, slurping improves the taste. The action helps get soup around in the mouth to all taste receptors; it causes volatiles to travel up through the nose to odor receptors; it increases the flow of saliva and it serves to slightly cool the soup before it goes down the throat. All good things. 

Here's an interesting presentation of's in Kyoto and if we can remember to pack our flak jackets, maybe we'll visit the place. You have to be very careful not to make a fuss???? 


  1. Quite interesting.This is new to me, I find the taste improvement idea intriguing.

  2. That video was hilarious! And I loved the part about your Mom. She sounds so nice.