Beau – ootiful Soo – oop!

Soup Of The Evening

Lewis Carroll

Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Beau – ootiful Soo – oop!
Beau – ootiful Soo – oop!
Soo – oop of the e – e – evening,
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!

Beautiful Soup! Who cares for fish,
Game, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two p
ennyworth only of beautiful Soup?
Pennyworth only of beautiful Soup?

Beau – ootiful Soo – oop!
Beau – ootiful Soo – oop!
Soo – oop of the e – e – evening,
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!

In the magical ‘Alice in Wonderland’, Lewis Carroll wrote an ode to what I’d like to think was his most cherished entree, soup. Maybe it was even his most beloved dish of any of the day’s repast. And I would have to agree – soup is one of the greatest gifts you can give a vegetable.

Any humble, muddy rooted legume may be transformed into a Rajasthani queen, given a sprinkling of toasted spice and a roast in the oven. A cast of spring vegetables can be charmed into a pool of broth for a synchronised swim. The threadbare remnants of a roasted hen can be redressed and transformed into a meaty elixir, worthy of clobbering any grown-man’s influenza. Throw in a handful of grains, a cup of lentils, some beans or pasta, and you have yourself a solid meal. Yes siree! This is the fairest of food; transcending class, race, gender, age, and season. It tells stories about where we come from and, also, where we’re at. A simple potage of potatoes could feed a small village during a famine whilst a bouillabaisse in the south of France could cost a week’s salary somewhere else in the world. Best of all, soup keeps us alive.

And so here I am, sitting today at my mother’s house, full with the riches of her famous chicken soup. Two bowls, in fact. This is no ordinary chicken soup (none of that creamy malarkey that was born in a tin or a carton, with murdered fleshy bits floating on the curd) – this is the goldenest of liquors, extracted from a koshered boiler after hours of simmering in a shissel full to the brim with root vegetables and giblets. This is the soup that leaves a fine meniscus of oil around a tipped bowl, like a luscious Pedro Ximenez, just to remind you of its strength of body and spirit.

So, in response to a question reminiscent of a Passover seder table: why on this day do we eat chicken soup? Well, it’s the best thing a Jewish family on Christmas Eve in London can eat to remind themselves about where they have schlepped from.

Shissel – Yiddish word for a large cooking vessel
Seder – the ritual Jewish feast of the festival of Passover
Schlep – Yiddish word for (v) haul or carry; (n) a tedious journey


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