A War on Soup? A Difference of Opinion.

Eneas Sweetland Dallas, 1877

There has been a good deal of needless controversy about soup—some people finding in it a dinner of itself, and some refusing it as a weak wash fit only for babes and invalids. Grimod de la Reynicre said that soup is to dinner what a portico is to a palace, or an overture to an opera; it is not only the commencement of the feast, but should give an idea of what is to follow.

On the other hand, the Marquis de Cussy described soup as the preface of dinner, and said that a good work can do without a preface. Careme, on his death-bed, groaned over this heresy: and among his last words he said, “Why should the Marquis de Cussy wage war on soup? I cannot understand a dinner without it. I hold soup to be the well beloved of the stomach.” What the Marquis de Cussy contended for was little more than this: that it is folly to load the stomach at the beginning of a long banquet with an elaborate essence—let the soup be light in quality, and let a few spoonfuls suffice.

People often sit down to a late dinner faint and irritable; and those who have observed how quickly a little liquid nourishment acts as a restorative will never consent to dispense with soup as the best of all preliminaries at dinner. It is quite true, however, that to serve such a purpose we do not require much weight of matter; and the plain rule to follow is: For a great dinner the soups should be as light as possible—just enough to give a fillip; for a little dinner, with one or two dishes, they may be as rich and satisfying as you please. De Cussy is quite in accord here with Thomas Walker (of the Original), who maintained that if he gave turtle soup to his guests they would want little else—whitebait and a grouse.