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As Good As Homemade


Throughout my little career in the kitchen, I have loved making soups. My tomato soup is a specialty of the house, as is my curried butternut squash soup. I make two mushroom soups, one a simple broth with marjoram, shallots, and chopped mushrooms, the other Julia Child's Velouté de champignons. And then there's Billi Bi, the great steamed-mussel soup that couldn't be more elegant. Don't forget chilled cucumber soup. Or Vichyssoise.

Most of the soups that I've listed hold for a few days, or longer; otherwise, I couldn't make them, since there are only two of us and only occasional guests. You will also note that most of the soups are purées. Soups with things in them don't last quite so well, and some don't last at all. Among these are New England Clam Chowder and minestrone. Not only doesn't minestrone hold, but it's impossible to make in small quantities. It is also a lot of work. I made it once, and it was almost okay.

One day, at the store, I was remembering lunch at my aunt's in New Hampshire. This was always a simple affair of soup and sandwiches and iced coffee. The soup was often Progresso minestrone. I was suddenly consumed by a desire to consume minestrone, but I thought I might do better than Progresso, and, boy, did I ever. I discovered Wolfgang Puck soups.

Wolfgang Puck New England Clam Chowder, French Onion Soup, Hearty Beef with Lentils Soup, and Old Fashioned Beef and Barley Soup. I don't know how they do it, but the manufacturers behind Wolfgang Puck soups have figured out how to put very good soup into cans. I could not make these soups any better myself. And the convenience! You don't even add water. Just heat the soup in a small saucepan and serve it with a bit of toasted baguette and a glass of wine. (Each can feeds two, but I can put one away all by myself.) This is really the way to enjoy life on one of those weekends when everybody in the house is deeply involved in a special project and nobody wants to spend a lot of time at the table. There's no reason to settle for a demoralizing snack.

Owing to the always-limited shelf space in Manhattan's supermarkets, the Food Emporium downstairs doesn't carry a dependable selection of Wolfgang Puck soups. Sometimes they've got nothing but Chicken Noodle and Tomato. That's why I looked for and found the Wolfgang Puck site. At first, I was disappointed, because nothing's on offer. Looking a little more closely, I had a voilà moment, and was soon at Foodlocker.com.

Now, the soup is cheaper downstairs that it is at Foodlocker. Depending on how much you're willing to buy at a given time, a can of soup costs between $3.15 (case price) and $4.49 (the four-can minimum - shipping included). Yes, that's pricey. But what you're getting here is a restaurant-quality product that I would have no shame in serving to guests. And I don't think that four dollars is a lot to spend on a nice lunch for two. It would cost twice that, at least, in the simplest neighborhood restaurant, and it wouldn't taste as good.

If you don't live one of the major American cities where Wolfgang Puck soups are distributed, then Foodlocker is your only option. Try it! You've read my recommendations; I'll vouch for all the ones I've listed. Maybe you've got a few friends who will go in with you on a case.

I'm not going to say anymore, lest my enthusiasm begin to seem suspect.


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Wait a minute. You, who will not allow plastic to come into contact with food, are endorsing a canned soup? Je n'en reviens pas!

Though I'm certain it's far better than standard, barely edible Campbell's fare. And given your endorsement, I may have to try it.

I love Wolfgang Puck soups and merci beaucoup for the link to Foodlocker.com, which will be an excellent resource when we move to our more rural location.

I am a kottke.org micropatron

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