What The Hell Is Souping?

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The juice cleanse has officially moved from yogi-driven hippie trend to mainstream food offering. Now, even gas stations are offering purportedly fresh-pressed juices, and you can’t throw a carrot without hitting a fashionable new spot selling $10 bottles filled with instant nutrients. Now that we’ve introduced “juicing” into the healthy American diet, though, there’s a new trend that threatens to dethrone the legions of mossy-hued beverages.

If you thought juicing was strange, meet souping. In January, ABC News declared souping to be this year’s “juicing.” The concept is simple — instead of consuming mostly sweetened versions of the kale and carrot and beet concoctions, savory beverages are thrown into the mix, like chicken broth and cauliflower puree. Whether consumed in the bottle or poured into a bowl, though, souping follows the same logic as juicing — you’re still going on a 100% liquid diet.

Soupure, a Los Angeles souping boutique, preaches “nourishment,” not deprivation. Instead of the sterile plastic (or glass, if you’re really dedicated) bottles of juice, soups are beautifully presented in bowls and garnished with (probably organic) microgreens. There are hot and cold and sweet and savory soups, all made with organic, “whole food” ingredients.” Instead of extracting the vegetable pulp away (aka all of the fiber and any remaining nutrients) in a juicer, you’re eating for all the vegetable you paid for, which seems like a better system, right?

If you don’t have the cash to shell out for a fancy juicer or organic vegetable juices shipped from Los Angeles or New York, souping is also great because it can be done at home. Even if you own a juicer, you probably still don’t have any interest in processing dozens of pounds of kale into your liquid five-a-day. Most of the recipes that abound on healthy eating blogs are still pretty sparse — vegetables, broth, and spices, but when you’re trying to prepare for the onslaught of holiday foods, it sounds tempting, right?

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Soupure

Five days of soup sounds infinitely more manageable than five days of choking down a green juice first thing in the morning. But if you’ve ever followed Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP cleanse, you probably still have nightmares about the watery soups that promised to “ease inflammation” and “promote detoxification.” Never before have carrots and ginger and leeks been so mistreated. But for folks who have fully accepted that sometimes flavor has to be sacrificed for ultimate cleansing, the appeal of souping makes a lot of sense.

When you’re on a juice cleanse, hunger is the number one enemy. No matter how many bottles of kale and ginger juice you consume, the bottomless pit that is your stomach rumbles on. It’s used to solid food, and it’s pissed about being deprived. Souping introduces heft into the mix, actual fiber and protein that promise to keep you satiated for hours. If you’ve somehow managed to survive a five-day juice cleanse, you could probably soup for three years before you ever felt hungry.

Winter feels like the perfect time for souping, too. We’re already tempted to make hearty stews and puree gourds into brightly colored bisques, why not make them healthier? In truth, it’s not the healthiness of souping that’s at issue, it’s the deliciousness — when’s the last time you looked forward to a juice cleanse?

But the blends of soup offered by JuicePress, another online and brick-and-mortar juicery that jumped on the souping bandwagon, sound anything but boring. Lentil-mushroom chili and Moroccan chickpea stew might not sound like something that you’d want to eat on a “cheat day,” but they’re likely to be much more delicious than your usual office cafeteria or fast food fare. If making soup at home, you can customize the flavors to suit your own tastes, and have a pot of soup that will make a week’s worth of lunches for just a couple of bucks.

As a meal plan, though, souping probably isn’t much better than juicing. Science has pretty much rejected the idea that mainlining fruit and vegetable essences doesn’t really do much to detoxify the body (it takes care of that itself, thank you very much) and you probably won’t see any long-term weight loss. But anyone can benefit from more pureed vegetables in their diet, and soup happens to be an excellent way to get a huge punch of nutrients from a variety of vegetables all at once. Flu season is here, and you could probably use a little more vitamin C and manganese and whatever the hell else makes vegetables healthy.

So go forth, and eat more soup, just eat other things too, occasionally. Please. No one’s going to judge you if you live on tomato soup for lunch for the rest of your life, but let’s not turn “souping” into an actual thing. Soup is a simple, beautiful dish, not a fucking lifestyle choice. We’ve already ruined juice with all these vegetables, and there’s no reason to turn something as perfect as soup into a soon-to-be-discarded trend. It’s just dinner, damn it.

Amy McCarthy is Paste’s Assistant Food Editor. She really likes soup.

Photo: James Cohen, CC BY

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