Soup kitchen


By Iñaki Alava

Although its meaning is similar in English as in Spanish, the Spanish word version has derogatory connotations. Both terms refer to the soup made of leftovers, which generously, are given, in soup kitchens and earlier in hostels/restaurants, to poor’s who could not afford a menu. The difference is that in Spain, many bards, singers and street entertainers paid this gesture, with a little actuation and ended making up, this as their usual way of life, hence additional term in Spanish of “living in the soup kitchen or viviendo de la sopa boba”.

Today, many young people and some not so young, have a vital objective “living in the soup kitchen”, not knowing that the soup is probably not as “silly” or trivial as it seems.

They are few things as charm as a good soup or hot broth at midday in winter, especially in days that cold and damp, seem lurk in home front door. Recently, I had the chance to eat a reconstruction (modernized), of a Mesopotamian / Egyptian soup, based on cereals, malt and dates. Sincerely, they was very good and comforting, despite being based on something that humans know and use since all times.

What is special about the soup, which makes it present in all cultures? Why is it so difficult, that one soup recipe, you leave equal to two chef’s? Why it is so comforting? Ultimately it`s really “silly” the soup?

Chicken broth, which we find so nutritious, has substantially the same chemical composition as the “primordial soup”, which gave rise life on earth, amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, some sugar and water and inorganic salts. In more than one sense, we are still part of the original “soup”, whose composition, is like our blood plasma.

Soups were performed early in stone bowls, where available solid foods, water and fire heated stones were added, this caused some warm soups, but maintaining their nutritional properties. Even today, some cooking techniques are heirs of these Paleolithic soups, like Japanese Dobin mushi, and wooden Kaiku milk from Basque Country.


From the technical point of view, any soup is a leachate. Is a transfer of substances from solid to the liquid surrounding. However, anyone who has done a leaching test material, to measure pollutants in the environment, knows how difficult, it`s the repeatability of this phenomenon.

Speed and compounds distribution released from the solid (brewing), is highly variable and depends on many factors (size of the solid, relative concentration, liquid composition, etc.). In the soup, appears exactly the same. Even the container, can also influence the final result, to leach some unwanted compounds (plasticizers, heavy metals …).

Also, in some cases, the foods themselves release anti-nutrient compounds, especially in some cold soups, done by seeds. Heating soup accelerates processes of nutrient release and neutralizes many of these anti-nutritional compounds. According to a study from the University of Purdue (Richard Mattes, Physiology & Behavior, Volume 83, Issue 5, 17 January 2005, Pages 739-747) the satiating effect of the soup is largely due to cognitive factors, namely soup fills us, because we believe it.

We look that the soup is anything, but not “silly”, actually the dummies who blindly believe anything, are the humans.

There are many urban legends about soups. People say: If the garlic soup is good to reduce hangover. If jujube fruit soup is good for the menstruation. That the onion soup increases… Well these, I tell you another day.


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