Soup as Culture

Category: Culture

“A soup like this is not the work of one man. It is the result of a constantly refined tradition. There are nearly a thousand years of history in this soup.”

– Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

Soup is the history and soul of a culture. There are thousands of different types of soup, each distinctive and each defining a culture. Think about different countries and then think of the soup associated with each one: Russia. France. Japan. Mexico. Thailand. Did you smell borscht, French onion soup, menudo, miso and tom yum? Plus, within each country, there are regional soups. In the States, we have clam chowder from New England, gumbo from New Orleans, and chili from the Southwest. Hungry yet?

Recently, the Acclaro San Francisco team went to Frugal Foodies in Berkeley and prepared a meal together (a four-course meal disguised as a team-building exercise!). Wearing our new Acclaro aprons and wielding knives, graters, spatulas, and whisks, we whipped up our lunch in just over an hour.

Lunch consisted of:

  • Wild greens salad with persimmons and pomegranate seeds
  • Spicy Mexican pumpkin soup
  • Eggplant terrine
  • Flourless chocolate cake with caramel sauce


Now let’s talk about the soup course. We all know, of course, soup should have its own course!

After all, it’s culture in a bowl. Included in the bowl are local ingredients such as vegetables, meats or seafood, and spices. Or perhaps it does not contain certain items depending on local customs and religious beliefs. It’s a comfort food (chicken soup for a cold, goulash for a cold winter day) and it’s an affordable all-in-one meal. It’s the multi-tasker of the food world. It’s made famous in TV shows (think Seinfeld) and movies (think Marx Brothers). It’s, thank goodness, forgiving.

Being Thanksgiving time, spicy Mexican pumpkin soup is especially relevant for this time of year. Plus, it’s a bit of Mexico in a bowl. The smell of pumpkin, crushed red pepper, and pepitas (pumpkin seeds) reminded all of us of our culturally-rich and food-loving neighbor to the south.

Can’t get to Mexico or a Mexican restaurant fast enough? Well, make the soup. It takes less than 40 minutes. Here’s the recipe:

Spicy Mexican Pumpkin Soup

½ C whipping cream
½ C sour cream
1 t fresh lime juice
6 T butter
6 C finely chopped onions
60 oz solid pack pumpkin
2 C whole milk
1 ¼ t dried crushed red pepper
9 C fake chicken broth
¾ cup shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted


  1. Whisk first 3 ingredients in small bowl. Cover; chill 1 hour. (Mexican cream can be made 1 week ahead. Keep chilled.)
  2. Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes.
  3. Mix in pumpkin, milk and crushed red pepper.
  4. Working in batches, puree mixture in processor. Return to pot.
  5. Add broth; simmer 10 minutes to blend flavors, stirring occasionally.
  6. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool. Cover and chill. Bring to simmer before continuing.)
  7. Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle with cream. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.

Serves 14 (have a party!)

Buen provencho and happy Thanksgiving!