The Slurp Factor
Today is National Noodle Day. To celebrate, I pay homage to one of the world’s greatest inventions: Campbell’s Soup. Especially the Chicken Noodle.
Let me preface this by saying that I believe 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” for nothing. 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 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. And with 32 feet of noodles in every can (at least according to the commercial), that’s a mighty fine slurping time.
Is it possible to love a product? Oh, I think so.
As a purist (hey, I make my own butter), I love making stock. However, I often don’t have time to do so, or I sometimes don’t have all the goodies I love to put into homemade stock. But, I still want the taste that comes with homemade stock. So, I have discovered a company that has done the work for me–Better than Bouillon (BtB).
I discovered this product on QVC. At the time, you received three jars of the paste and a cookbook. I don’t believe it’s available on QVC anymore, but most grocery stores seem to carry at least some of the flavors. And there are many flavors are available, including chili, beef, pork, ham, vegetable, clam, and my favorite, chicken. There are also organic and kosher varieties. If your store doesn’t carry BtB, it can be ordered online.
The paste easily dissolves in water, and the flavors are to die for. They really do taste and smell as though you’ve been cooking all day. Most are either low or no fat, and the sodium count is extremely low–no more eating a salt shaker with a little bit of flavor added. One word of caution, however. Start with an amount LESS than what is recommended on the label. The flavors are so intense that the suggested amounts can be a bit too strong. If you’re making something like soup, that’s easily remedied by adding more water, but it’s still best to start out on the cautious side. After all, it’s easier to add more than to remove excess.
As I mentioned, my favorite is the chicken base. One of my favorite weekend meals is Saturday Chicken Soup–with or without the noodles. With the intense flavor of the base, you really don’t even need the chicken, and more often than not, that’s how I prepare it. The recipe is in the Recipe section in the sidebar.
I happened to mention BtB on Plurk the other day. It seems to be a popular product for many of us who love to cook. It’s convenient, it’s tasty, and for me anyway, the results are much more reliable than when I make my own stock.