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(600 Unrelated) Word(s About) Soup

My wife is a teacher. Among many remarkable things her body can do (created two great boys, throws a decent spiral, etc.), it also senses at the conclusion of Mile of Music that summer is ending. This switch commences what is known within our house as “Soup Mode.”

Soup Mode is a state of mind, an unofficial and inexact season, and a gastrointestinal philosophy all stirred into one agreeable broth. As it applies to my bride of nearly seven years, she will stay in Soup Mode until Spring Break unleashes another unofficial season, “Educator Inertia Month.”

Numerous triggers might have a role in setting Soup Mode into motion. The crack of the pads at Packer training camp? Flannel on the racks at Kohls, Lillian’s, et al? General disgust with the heat, causing a rebellion within whatever governs her appetite? It’s a mystery, and one that fills our dishwasher with a great many bowls.

So what defines Soup Mode? It’s when your whole world is seen through a Dramatic Warm filter, when slippers are worn at all times regardless of the outdoor temperature, when you slip into bed at 7pm but rewatch Virgin River until you fall asleep at…7:30pm. It generally afflicts our household when we’ve hit our sunburn quota for the summer, when we’re ready for the bonfires to start earlier in the evening, and when the onset of school will soon require easy and plentiful leftovers. It lasts until we’re so sick of soup that we swear we’ll never eat it again until the cycle repeats.

Since we’re talking about a state of mind here, I don’t think the distinction between “soup” and “stew” is an important one. If it’s hot and you’re using a spoon, it’s a soup. If your soup is served cold, it may indeed be soup in name, but it has no place in “soup season” as I’ve come to understand it. While we’re here, a hot dog is not a sandwich.

With that first batch of soup in August, we set off a ritual where a different soup is made virtually every week or two for seven cozy months. Admittedly, there are diminishing returns as the defeat of endless winter saps all soup-adjacent joy, but from the first crockpot batches of fall to post-Thanksgiving Turkey Noodle, friend, that’s about as good as eating gets.

The Mount Rushmore of soups by my estimation are as follows: Chicken Noodle, Chili, Broccoli Cheese, and probably French Onion. Some might argue for Clam Chowder, but they’d be wrong for the same reasons that a regional curio like Chicken Booyah can’t rank among the best. I’d vote for Chicken Tortilla, a soup that can be transcendent or gross depending on the recipe. Low floor, unlimited ceiling.

Tomato soup and its various proxies are good only for dipping grilled cheese sandwiches, nothing more or less.

The most underrated soup by a great distance is Ramen. Yes, packaged dry ramen. It’s the only soup that I eat year-round. A few years ago there was an insurance commercial that suggested that eating ramen every night was something that should be avoided; in an unrelated story, I don’t insure my vehicles through Allstate.

My best friend growing up, his mom makes a mean soup called Cheeseburger Stew which is, to me, the gold standard for what a soup should be. Creamy cheesy broth with ground beef, lots of veggies, and just a touch of sour cream; I once worked a garbage disposal to death with more potato and carrot peels than it could handle, which I just considered the cost of doing business with such an exquisite soup. I make Cheeseburger Stew at least once per year, I take a photo to send to Susan, and she compliments my cover rendition of her classic hit. It’s the backbone of our relationship.

Want the recipe? I’d be happy to share it. The world needs to know about this soup, and if you’d to add this formidable arrow to your personal quiver, all you need to do is ask.

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