Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Slurp Factor

Food is a wonderful thing. It feeds our bodies, and it feeds our souls. How many of us associate life events with the smell--if not taste--of food? Then there are the sounds . . .
Let me preface this by saying that my childhood preceded the invention of Lipton's Cup a Soup. I think ramen noodles have been around since the beginning of time; I haven't. But, I have been around longer than Cup a Soup.
My mom was a big fan of Campbell's soup. It was easy to prepare, and all you needed to add was a supply of crackers to have an entire meal. (Mom was never a master cook.) It was inexpensive; we never had a lot of money, and their tomato soup could often be found for twenty-five cents a can. Plus, to quote a TV commercial from my childhood, my mother married my father for better or worse--and got him for lunch, too.
Sometimes my mom decided to treat us to a "higher class" of soup--boxed soup! Now remember, Cup of Soup wasn't available. This was one of the original boxed soups. You bought a box containing an envelope containing dried soup mix, which you added to boiling water. My personal favorite was the chicken noodle soup.
Ahh, I can still remember it. As it simmered on the stove, the light chicken smell filled the kitchen. Unlike our more usual Campbell Chicken Noodle soup, this version didn't leave a yellow ring-around-the pan (and later the bowl). It had a much lighter taste, and it was fun chasing the small pieces of parsley around the bowl with our spoons. The noodles were very short and very, very thin. And sadly, the noodles were the most disappointing part of this special lunch treat.
Chicken noodle soup is one of the world's best inventions. It can help cure all ills, or at least make them a bit more tolerable; it didn't earn the name "Jewish penicillin" easily. As an adult, I count chicken noodle soup as one of my specialties. Still, it's not the same as Campbell's.
Why? I use all-fresh ingredients, the best stock, and add that extra touch of love. And, my soup has chicken in it; the Campbell version of my childhood might have had three or four pieces of something called chicken in the entire can. What could I be doing wrong?
Nothing. Most of the time I prefer my version. Then there are those other times when nothing but Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup will do. Even other canned soups don't have the same effect. What is it about Campbell's?
Well, there is the yellow ring, but the real difference is the noodles--the slurp factor. What greater joy was there as a child than to lift a soup spoon to my mouth--filled with broth and noodles--and slurp the noodles into my mouth? The sound of the slurp; the sensation of the noodles against my teeth and to my tongue, which caressed the noodles before releasing them down my throat. It was even better when the loss of childhood teeth left a direct path to the gums and a louder slurp. Of course it also meant a bigger laugh from my brother and father; Mom failed to see the humor.
As an adult, I'm not supposed to play with my food. I now know that the yellow residue probably means Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup isn't the most healthful food I can eat. But then, sometimes you just don't care. You just have to slurp.

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