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Soup’s On! The Queen of All Comfort Foods Rules the Winter

By Chef Julie Wilson

Bonus recipe below.

The days are short and the nights are cold. Oh, who are we kidding…in New England, the days are cold too! It’s hard to get yourself out of the house. But this year let’s try something different. Don’t fight against the winter. Embrace it. Plan on getting cozy and making a meal perfect for the weather. Start something that will warm your insides – figuratively and literally – soup! Hearty, healthy, and wholesome, just about everyone loves soup, and there’s a soup for everyone to love. Why do we have such an affinity for this beloved broth? Many things come to mind, but the first reason soup speaks to us, is because of its ability to transport you to a different time and place. Like any good comfort food, it can take you back to your childhood.

Personally, when I think of soup, it instantly reminds me of my Nonna in her kitchen chopping carrots and celery into perfectly proportioned pieces for her minestrone. She would stay in that kitchen all day making the world’s most perfect soup. You’d have a little of everything in just one bite, the pasta and beans and meat mixing and mingling, yet somehow simultaneously bringing their own special pop of flavor to each mouthful. She was an artist, painting with the select few brushes she needed. My other grandmother was a seasoned soup maker herself. My Grammy was just the opposite of neat and precise. If my Nonna was perfectly practiced, my Grammy was flying by the seat of her pants. She would pop in and out of her kitchen, add a few things here, a few things there, assess for taste, and leave it be, only to return to a perfect turkey soup. The bones of which she got from our Thanksgiving meal, carrying them home in a plastic bag. All of that, from one recipe. Whether consciously or unconsciously, soup conjures up heartwarming feelings. It brings generations together in the kitchen without actually being together. Soup has a real healing quality about it.

While you’re healing your spirit with a variety of recipes passed down to you from the generation before, you can heal your body too. We love that soup has a lot of delicious veggies and vital nutrients our bodies need, especially if it’s homemade. Health and nutrition are an important part of the food world now, and they were important to my grandmothers back when they made their stunning soups. Even if you don’t find yourself deeply committed to counting calories, you probably want to stay healthy and active to enjoy life. Maybe you’re not even thinking that deeply when you think about having a bowl, but I’m sure you find yourself reaching for a hot cup of broth when you have a crummy cold, or dreaming of a steaming bowl of liquid on a chill-you-to-your-bones kind of day. Eating it makes you instantly feel better. If I’m not feeling well and need a quick soup fix, I’ll even buy a can. I know, I know. But I need those healing nutrients, STAT!

A can of soup is certainly easy, and easy can be important. We all have busy schedules – a million undone tasks filling up our lists. Soup is easy enough to make in a large batch to sustain you for the rest of the week, or freeze and take out periodically, giving yourself a much-deserved break from spending precious time cooking dinner. Another reason to love soup! Take your nutritious broth to work for a quickly heated-up lunch, or give it some time to come to temp and pop it on the stove while you’re working from home. I’ve been fortunate to be able to work from my home, and heating up food on the stove can’t be beaten. It fills my kitchen with such a savory aroma while I work, helping the creative juices to flow! And if you work from home like me, sipping on soup, you can clean out your fridge too… of those veggies that might not make it until next week. Throw them into the mix you’re making and your recipe grows tenfold. Have you just unlocked sustainable living? Well, you’re at least on the right track.

I suppose it’s not so difficult to understand why soup is such a staple for us in the winter months. We need something healing and warm to balance out the harsh cold of January. The benefits of brewing your broth are so appealing, we can’t help but partake. Cooking can be community building, and soup reminds us of that fact. Whether you prefer the privacy of your own home or sharing your skills in a group setting, the soup you make will keep you warm until the sun starts to burn a little hotter, thawing us all out from the winter frost. That might be a while, so you better get stirring!