What’s Weird About France (and Soup)?

Soup—wouldn’t you think the country that gave you French onion, vichyssoise, soupe de poisson and other great meals in a bowl, would have you drooling in the soup aisle?

One of the most surprising things about living in this part of France, is the lack of soup, especially anything with a texture and that’s true of restaurants as well as stores.

In an American supermarket, there are aisles dedicated to soup, both chunky and smooth, and pre-made broth. The prepared foods section usually has at least a couple of ready-to-go varieties. I’ve seen soup in the refrigerated section and even the frozen food area.

Not so in France. There are small sections with boxes or bottles of soups (no cans), but they’re almost all some form of vegetable purée. An occasional sighting of a packet of Knorr soup mix, but no chunky soups, packets of ramen, or even chicken noodle (so what do the French do when they have a cold, if there’s no chicken soup?). The other part of this weirdness is that it’s impossible to buy any kind of ready-made broth—chicken, beef, fish or veggie.

It’s not like they’re against prepared food, as a walk into any butcher, or traiteur would show you at least half a dozen great looking pre-made dinner choices with side dishes galore.

This was what inspired my first appliance purchase, a stick blender, so I could make some of my favorite soups. I prepped for it first, by saving all the bones from the poulets rôti  we were getting from the butcher (more prepared food) and making stock. Now I’m set for soup or risotto, but today it was one of my favorites; broccoli and potato soup. A quick trip to the marché set me up with all the veggies and then it was time to get to work in a kitchen that’s still a learning curve.

But good ingredients make good food, and the potatoes here remind you how potatoes should taste. Add local broccoli, lemons and some really good Parmesan cheese and it’s soup time here.  And the new stick blender? So good! Like the new salad spinner, they’ve made updates in the past __ years and both of them are such big improvements over the ones that worked fine but got left behind, that I’m off to pick up some more potatoes and leeks. It’s time for vichyssoise!


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