Dirty Little Secrets: Campbell’s Tomato Soup
In the not-too-distant past, I have railed against Campbell’s condensed soups, in particular the cream of mushroom and cream of celery varieties that are commonly substituted for béchamel sauce in casserole recipes across this vast and blessed land. On several occasions I’ve also remarked on the puzzling consumption of Velveeta cheese, for which I inevitably receive a handful of responses extolling its virtues, but let’s leave that for the nonce. People like what they like and the palate is a mysterious organ. How else to explain the existence of head cheese? Witness the recipe:
To make head cheese, clean the hog’s head by removing the snout, eyes, ears, brains and all the skin. Trim away all the fat from the head and cut it into four pieces. Place in a crock or enamel container. Cover with a solution of 1/2-cup canning salt to 1-gallon water. Make sure the pieces are completely covered. Let it soak for 5-hours to draw out all the blood…
There’s more, but I can’t bear to go into it. At least they remove the snout, though it’s unclear to me whether it gets tossed out or thrown in the crock. Anyways, you get the idea. Different streaks for different freaks, as they say.
Back to soup. So as I was saying, I have a bee in my bonnet about Campbell’s soups generally, and in particular I loathe the glutinous white ones. That said, we all have our dirty little secrets and one of mine involves Campbell’s tomato soup and Anthony Bourdain. Leaving aside Tony — who really is blameless in all this and will never join me in a bowl of soup homemade or otherwise, let alone consent to lift the restraining order — let’s talk soup.
Make no mistake, this stuff is really not good for you. It’s loaded with sugar and salt, but as far as I can tell, precious little in the way of tomatoes, unless you count “tomato puree (water, tomato paste)” as tomatoes. Obviously a plum tomato or two were involved at some point way back in the processing process, but the product has been stepped on so many times by the time it reaches the can, that it hardly counts. It’s like calling glue horse cream or labeling gin as juniper juice. Technically true, but only just.
Now, I have tried other soups — everything from Progresso, to Annie’s Organic to ten-dollar bowls of tomato bisque that high end restaurants serve by the quarter cup in a saucer and topped with crème fraiche and a basil sprig. Trust me, I’ve tasted them all, and yet I have to say, nothing satisfies like a big old bowl of Campbell’s tomato.
There are two schools of thought as to how to reconstitute it: with milk/cream or water. Personally, I figure in for a penny, in for a pound, so why waste your time and salt allocation on watery tomato paste? I make it the way my mother did, but even more so. She added half a can of water and half a can of whole milk, which yielded a creamy delicious soup that wasn’t entirely ruinous in terms of calories, and didn’t use up the last drop of milk in the fridge. She also added “parties” (aka squares of buttered white toast) instead of crackers, and though it was a stroke of branding genius (what kid won’t eat parties?), I prefer crackers. My version uses half a can of half & half combined with half a can of water, but you’ll do as you like.
We all have our dirty little secrets, some involving food, others…well, other things. I suppose as vices go, this one is is pretty tame, though if you served it with a grilled head cheese sandwich….
Posted on March 10, 2012, in Good to know, One bowl meals and tagged Anthony Bourdain, Food, Head cheese, Humor, Lunch, Progresso, Thoughts, Tomato, Tomato paste, Velveeta. Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.