Soup is an easily made, economical, and when properly prepared from healthful and nutritious material, very wholesome article of diet, deserving of much more general use than is commonly accorded it.
In general, when soup is mentioned, some preparation of meat and bones is supposed to be meant; but we shall treat in this chapter of a quite different class of soups, viz., those prepared from the grains, legumes, and vegetables, without the previous preparation of a “stock.” Soups of this character are in every way equal, and in many points superior to those made from meat and bones. If we compare the two, we shall find that soups made from the grains and legumes rank much higher in nutritive value than do meat soups. For the preparation of the latter, one pound of meat and bones, in about equal proportion, is required for each quart of soup. In the bone, there is little or no nourishment, it being valuable simply for the gelatine it contains, which gives consistency to the soup; so in reality there is only one half pound of material containing nutriment, for the quart of soup. Suppose, in comparison we take a pea soup. One half pound of peas will be amply enough for a quart. As we take an equal amount of material as basis for each soup, we can easily determine their relative value by comparing the amount of nutritive material contained in peas with that of beef, the most commonly used material for meat soups. As will be seen by reference to the table of food analyses on page 486, peas contain 87.3 parts nutritive material, while lean beef contains only 28 parts in one hundred. Thus the pea soup contains more than three times as much nourishment as does the beef soup.
Soups prepared from grains and legumes are no more expensive than meat soups, and many kinds cost much less, while they have the added advantage of requiring less time and no more labor to prepare.
The greater bulk of all meat soups is water, holding in solution the essence of meat, the nutritive value of which is of very doubtful character.
When properly prepared, the solid matter which enters into the composition of vegetable soups, is so broken up in the process of cooking, that it is more easily digested than in any other form.
Taken hot at the beginning of a meal, soup stimulates the flow of the digestive juices, and on account of the bulk, brings a sense of satiety before an excessive quantity of food has been taken.
In preparing soups from grains, legumes, and vegetables, the material should be first cooked in the ordinary manner, using as small an amount of water as practicable, so as the more thoroughly to disintegrate or break it up. If the material be legumes or grains, the cooking should be slow and prolonged. The purpose to be attained in the cooking of all foods is the partial digestion of the food elements; and in general, with these foods, the more slowly (if continuous) the cooking is done, the more completely will this be brought about.