When Noel asks, ‘are you hungry?’, what he really means to say is, ‘I’m ready to eat now, what are we going to make?’ Don’t get me wrong, he’s not demanding that I immediately tie on my pinny and attend to his nutritional needs, it’s more a case of it being unseemly of him to tuck in alone, he wants company, of course he wants some grub and he knows that I never finish any food so there’s more for him.
We do most of our cooking from scratch, there’s no ready meals or Pot Noodles in our store cupboard. We even make our own stock, the basis for many a hearty stew or soup, which go down very nicely, thank you very much.
So when Noel announced he was hungry for soup, I was thinking something like lentil, apple and bacon, or maybe a French flavour with soupe a l’oignon gratinee served with our freshly-baked crusty bread. But no, Noel had his heart set on a blast from the past, a soup with a 100-year-heritage, a soup voted ‘the nation’s most comforting soup’. What else could it be but Heinz Cream of Tomato?
I was a little taken aback, after all, this was a processed product in can, we don’t eat that kind of thing these days, we do ‘healthy’ stuff.. But the very mention of it took me straight back to childhood when grandma would serve up a bowl of steaming Heinz soup with a slice or two of Mother’s Pride bread fresh from its waxed paper wrapping. The best way to eat it was to break up the doughy plastic bread into chunks and sink it into the soup where it would swell, become squashy and add more flavour to what I can only describe as the King of All Soups. The satisfaction of slurping the soup through the bread was immense, if a little messy, even better than peeling the coating off Birds Eye Fish Fingers and soaking the chunks of fish in vinegar to get the most flavour, despite the dire grandmotherly warnings that it would dry my blood.
So it was off to the offie for two cans of soup and a packet of thin-sliced Mother’s Pride. At the last minute, I switched to vegetable, remembering that as a child it as the only way I could be persuaded to eat vegetables in any form, unless they were chips.
The soups were fabulous, full of flavour and fantastically comforting. The vegetables were splendidly soaked in thick tomato, tasting only of pure tomato with not a hint of pea, carrot or swede, the kind of vegetable all kids crave for. We both had a tomato-coloured moustache, empty bowls and were proud of it. Though Noel was slightly miffed that I finished all of mine, including the little white circular things which neither of us could name.
That day we wouldn’t have been on our own enjoying that soup. the factory produces 1600 cans a minute and according to the Heinz website, .if you stacked all the tins of Cream of Tomato soup sold since 1910 the pile would reach to the moon and back. As Neil Armstrong might have pointed out when he stepped on the moon, that’s one giant soup step for mankind.